Teacher Gets Schooled By A Former Student & This Friendship Is In The Sand Bucket

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

DEAR CAT: I recently ran into one of my teachers from high school. We were standing in line at a coffee place and recognized each other at the same moment. It’s been over twenty years but I have not forgotten how much I disliked him. He never encouraged me and the one thing I’ll never forget is when I asked him to sign my autograph book he said, “should I write the truth or just be nice?” That was his typical rude sense of humor. We talked for a few minutes in the line and I was proud to tell him how successful I’ve been. He responded, “glad you see you made something of yourself.” I then said, “no thanks to you,” and walked away. My wife thinks I was rude and “undid” whatever good impression I could have made. Honestly it felt great to tell him to stick it. Your call? — NO APPLE FOR HIM

DEAR NO APPLE: I want to side with your wife, I really do, but you weren’t obligated to make a good impression on him. Sometimes life gives you the opportunity to face an old foe and stand up for yourself in a mature and confident way, which is what you did! You simply let him know that his lack of encouragement 1) didn’t hold you back and 2) was remembered. This way, the next time he has the choice between telling the truth and being nice…Cat’s Call: Hopefully he’ll remember how you schooled him.

DEAR CAT: I have been friends with a woman “Beth” for 20 years and we are like family. The problem is her oldest child who is spoiled rotten and has no structure or discipline. Over the years they have gone on vacations with other families and have never been asked back. This past summer Beth asked if they could join our annual vacation. Since Beth has been like a second daughter to my parents, I felt the need to agree but saying yes was a terrible decision. Over the course of the week: 1) Beth’s kids had no bedtime – they are 4 and 3 and were not in bed before 11:30pm, so they were extremely cranky (we felt sorry for them), 2) the 4 year old stuck out his tongue at Grandma who was up at 6am making them breakfast as Beth slept off her hangover, and 3) the 4 year old called Grandma a “stupid old lady.” When I told Beth that her kid was rude to my mother, her response was, “yep, that sounds about right.” There was no apology to me, my mother or even a discussion with the child. To top it off, that child refused to use the toilet the entire week because it wasn’t his “own” and he would only go in a sand bucket. Beth and her husband forced the entire house to listen to their griping about what a pain it was every time the 4 year old had to go. Needless to say, the vacation was not relaxing and we will not be inviting them again. The problem is, what to do about my friendship with Beth now? I am really hurt that she did not apologize for her child’s behavior towards my mother. Beth has this thing where she hates when people try to correct her 4 year old, so aside from reporting the behavior and stating my disapproval, I haven’t said a thing about it. My husband and I have kept our distance simply because we initially needed a break after the “vacation” but now it has been several months and it is getting ridiculous. I could use some advice on how to repair this. Your call? — NOW I REALLY NEED A VACATION!

DEAR VACATION: A sand bucket? For a week? That is beyond disgusting. The “stupid old lady” remark is obnoxious but kids can be rude just to get a reaction. If Beth has a thing about people correcting her kids’ bad behavior, and she’s not willing to do anything about it, don’t spend time with them. Period. Truthfully, I’m not sure what needs to be repaired about your situation. Obviously Beth and her husband tolerate (and perhaps encourage) their children’s antics, which is their right, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with any of it. Just because you’re de facto family doesn’t mean you have to hang out all the time. Keep in mind, the problem isn’t Beth’s children…Cat’s Call: The problem is Beth and her husband.

What’s YOUR call? Share it below! Submit questions to: or click here!.

  1. On the first one, I side with the wife. Had the writer had a mature discussion with the old teacher, and let him know how his words and attitude affected people, maybe he would see the light and change. Or at least have an opportunity to apologize. As it is, he may be even more mean spirited, or defensive, and not learn from it. Maybe, he already has changed and the writer did not give him the chance to say that things have changed. I understand it felt good to stick it to him, but I think it did some harm, and you lost out on doing some good.

    For the second letter: I say it’s your own dumb fault, you never should have allowed Beth to push her way into your family vacation. Just because you have known her for 20 years doesn’t automatically make everything work just fine, you even knew going in how bad she and the kids were. At this point, I would let time and distance pass, unless she comes to you and asks what is going on. Then you have the chance to help her see what is wrong. Sounds like she already knows and is defensive, but she definitely needs the help. Sometimes kids act out, cause they want boundaries and discipline, adults need them, too.

    — Wertzro in Pittsburgh    12/20/2011    Reply

  2. I know it had to feel good to tell him to stick it but I have to agree with the wife. By being rude to the teacher, it only reinforces any thoughts that the teacher may have had about Apple not measuring up, so to speak. The mature thing to do would have been to either say nothing at all- maybe the teacher would see on his own that he was wrong so many years ago or if Apple really wanted to say something he could have done it in a better manner- “I know that not everyone believed in me when I was younger but I’m proud to say that in spite of that I’ve done well” or something along those lines. There was really no need to be rude and it reflects poorly upon Apple’s character. Even if one is successful, it doesn’t give them class.

    — D, Pittsburgh    12/20/2011    Reply

  3. I have to side with Cat/No Apple on question1. A really wonderful teacher is something truly special and a really terrible teacher is something truly awful that affects you for years. I wish I had the chance to face one or two of my former teachers! I know I would not be as succinct as Apple was! I like how Cat says he “wasn’t obligated to make a good impression” on the teacher, which is an interesting way of looking at the situation. They are now both adult men, no longer teacher & student. Apple did not read him the riot act, he just let him know he was still hurt from years ago. That is not rude in my opinion.

    On question2 I definitely side with Cat and Wertzro. Why did Need A Vacation say yes to the trip in the first place? Nobody likes when others scold our children but Beth’s children are little monsters who are not scolded by Beth and the father. That would not be fun for anyone. I think Beth wants to take trips with other families because she/husband can’t have any fun going with just their own children. I will also add that after ONE DAY of sand bucket nonsense, threaten the kids with going home. If they do it again, GO HOME, teach the kid a lesson on who’s in charge. What a terrible imposition they placed on Need A Vacation! Also, they could have asked Beth and that family to leave. Vacations don’t come every day, they are not to be wasted!

    — Yonka, Dallas    12/20/2011    Reply

  4. Apple: honestly it doesn’t much matter. I promise that the crummy teacher did not want to hear that his mean behavior was remembered and that he should be professional at work. So 3 words won’t make any difference one way or another – and it made you feel good.

    Vacation: this is a true friend? give her the classic book (anonymously if you must) called: Children: the challenge by Dreikurs. The preamble is quite dated, but it has clear strategies for raising nice, normal kids who respect you and respect themselves. If they are nightmares at age 4, they will be hateful at 14.

    — s.    12/20/2011    Reply

  5. I have to side with NO APPLE FOR HIM. If people don’t have faith in and you’ve gone and made something out of yourself in spite of them, they need to know that. I worked 5 years in a fast food restaurant and when I quit to put myself through College, my manager told everyone including me that I would be back within a month asking for my old job back. I ran into him several years later after graduating from College and I was working at a good paying job. We quickly caught up and he jokingly said I was now probaly making more money than he was, I grinned and said, Yes, I was. The look I got was priceless but it was worth it. If these people already had negative thoughts about you, nothing you can say or do is going to change that. Good for him for becoming successful despite that teacher and double good for him for telling him so.

    — Maritas, VA    12/20/2011    Reply


    I have to disagree with the CatMeister on this one.

    It served no good purpose to say what you did to that teacher. It won’t change him. It won’t change you. And, if he is such a person as you described, he couldn’t care less if you are successful or not, so why even bother?

    I would have been the “better” person by swallowing my pride, then wishing him luck, and thereby releasing any held grudge. Karma!

    — LeBron from Pittsburgh    12/20/2011    Reply

    1. I agree with LeBron. Stooping down to his level really serves no useful purpose. NAFM is much better off taking the high road and not burning a bridge, because you never know when your paths may cross in the future.

      Remember, the ass you kick today may be the one you have to kiss tomorrow……

      — Matt in Pittsburgh    12/28/2011    Reply

  7. No Apple – the teacher’s remark was entirely in character “glad to see you made something of yourself”, nothing complimentary there. Nevertheless, even though saying “no thanks to you” must have been satisfying, it would have been better to be polite and say “yes I’ve been very successful”, or something similar.

    Vacation – the situation sounds like a nightmare. Maybe she was once a good friend, but things change. I don’t know why Vacation would even want to repair this friendship. The choice is to put up with the spoiled brat, who will only get worse, or tell her what the problem is, in which case she is likely to end the friendship anyway. It seems like Vacation is tiptoeing around this as if she is the one with the problem.

    — PB from NY    12/20/2011    Reply

  8. Re Apple – while it felt good to put the former teacher in his place with your negative comment (can’t blame you at all), it would have felt even better to say something along the lines suggested by D, even mentioning that you remember his hurtful autograph but you have been successful, ending on a positive upbeat note. You would have given him feedback to consider in a mature manner and you would have been a classier act. Definitely a KARMA choice here. Still can’t blame you – tuck it away as a learning experience to be remembered the next time you have that kind of choice.

    Re Vacation – I would have left that vacation myself after a day or two, and taken Grandma with me, or spent the days elsewhere or occupied. Totally agree with Cat on this one. Don’t spend any time with Beth that includes her family. Every once in a while invite her to a “girlfriend night” just the two of you, and limit it to that.

    — Nancy in Pittsburgh    12/21/2011    Reply

    1. Great idea, Nancy…a ‘girlfriend night’ every so often, away from kids and family, to keep the friendship going. Excellent idea!

      — Cat    12/22/2011    Reply


    Beth and family going with other families on vacations has nothing to do with you. And, I know hindsight is 20-20, but you never should have invited her or let her come with your family during your vacation. Then during the first two days, I would have “stepped in” and told her something like, “If you don’t discipline that child, leave! You are not going to ruin my vacation!”

    However, since that is now water over the bridge and through the Hoover Dam, and you both have not contacted each other for several months, just don’t contact her until she contacts you. And, when she does, you tell her how offended you felt during that vacation and that her children need disciplined.

    If she gets mad, too bad. It’s on her. Maybe, just maybe, you tellng her the truth will begin a change in how they raise their child… but then again, maybe not.

    Still, it needs done. She needs to be told.

    — LeBron from Pittsburgh    12/22/2011    Reply

  10. I read No Apple’s letter, and it reminded me of my favorite teachers from high school. They had high expectation and took achievement as a matter of fact, rather than constantly cheering us along for merely trying. I found that kind of approach annoying enough in elementary school; by high school a teacher who knows his or her material is way more important than one who claps for you for showing up. People keep complaining about ‘entitled young people’ (a gross generalization) but then they cheer on rude behavior to a former teacher for the possible sins of having a dry sense of humor and failing to throw students a parade for merely showing up.

    — Maria    12/24/2011    Reply

  11. Cat we are at the office ready to read and talk (or argue!) about the week’s issues—-how can you take vacation? I guess we can forgive you and wish you a happy new year!

    — Jarod    12/27/2011    Reply

  12. The first one cracks me up! You held on to a childhood grudge for TWENTY YEARS and you think you’re a bigshot? And the grudge seems to be based on him not piping insipid ‘you are the future’ comments into your brain and not wanting to come up with some false positivity to dribble into your yearbook like every other dumb sap behind a desk? Wow, big man on campus coming through! No word on whether you were a decent student or even a decent human being but don’t worry princess, I believe you… it’s all everybody else’s fault.

    — Derek    01/02/2012    Reply

    1. So, Derek, which subject matter did you teach NO APPLE FOR HIM back in the day?

      — LeBron from Pittsburgh    01/03/2012    Reply


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