I’ve lived down the street from my principal and his family—including his 16-year-old son—for years now. On more than one occasion when I’ve known my boss to be out of town, our street fills with teenagers’ cars and they all file into his house. During one of these parties, our neighbor found random teenagers swimming in his pool at 3 a.m.! They’re not bothering me, but I do worry what can happen when a bunch of teenagers are unsupervised in a potentially altered state. Should I let my principal know that his son is throwing parties, or is that overstepping my bounds? —Party Pooper
You’re right to be concerned about teenagers who might be abusing substances unsupervised, especially if they’re driving home afterwards. Too many of us know tragic stories of what can happen when teenagers—who oftentimes already think they’re invincible—attempt something risky while impaired.
But since you’re not sure if they’re doing anything illegal and since they’re not actually bothering you, I don’t think this is something you should bring to your principal. Not yet, anyway.
However, I do think your neighbor with the pool should bring the issue to the principal’s attention ASAP. Not just because it’s risky for kids to be swimming unsupervised (whether or not they’ve been drinking), but because depending on your state’s laws, your neighbor could be held liable if an accident takes place.
Next year, I will have the daughter of another teacher on our campus in my third grade class. This teacher and I get along great, and her daughter is a sweetheart. But I know from the grapevine that this teacher can get mad if her daughter doesn’t get all the top awards/opportunities. I’m already worried that my name will get dragged if her daughter isn’t the lead in our third grade play, isn’t a finalist in our school poetry slam, doesn’t get a 100 on every assignment, isn’t the one chosen as a volunteer when we have a cool guest speaker, etc. I’m in full dread mode about feeling like I have to choose between being unfair to my students or being on my coworker’s bad side. What should I do? —A Panicking People Pleaser
Yikes! I worry about a child (and a parent) who thinks that success looks like winning or being top dog all the time.
I think you know the right answer: You have to be fair. Compromising your teaching philosophy to keep another teacher happy will make you miserable. Here are a few things that might help.
First, I think you should set a foundation with your class right away on what it looks like to celebrate one another. Explain that this year there will be plays, field trips, contests, and games. That means there are times they will win or be chosen, and times they’ll be disappointed by an outcome.
Say, “I love seeing my students excited when they win something. But you know what I love even more? Seeing my students celebrate one another.” Act out what that looks like, and have students pair up and pretend with a few role-play situations.
Next, whether you do a weekly email or a text blast, I think you should communicate this same thing to parents when you have something coming up that you know might trigger disappointment. “Hi parents! Cast list goes out today. Just a reminder that we are big in our class on celebrating one another. For some students this will be exciting, and for others it might be confusing or disappointing. But something every student can celebrate is that together, we will put on a fabulous play. Thanks for your cooperation!”
If the teacher ends up complaining to you, you’ll have the foundation in place to refer back to (“This is a great opportunity for Abbi to practice celebrating her classmates’ exciting win.”)
But if the teacher ends up complaining to other teachers that Abbi “never gets picked,” trust me—those teachers already know or will figure out soon that Abbi’s mom has very unrealistic expectations.
I’m at my dream school (I know how rare this is in teaching!), but three weeks ago someone in the district central office asked if I’d be interested in joining the curriculum team. I hadn’t given any thought to leaving the classroom, but the more we talked about it, the more I realized how much I might actually love designing curriculum. Plus, the pay would mean big-time relief for me and my family. Since it’s a district position, I can say yes without any penalty. But what if I hate my new job and lose my spot at a unicorn school? What do I do? School starts in a month! —I’m Freaking Out, Man
What an exciting problem to have—choosing between a job you love and a job you could love!
Ultimately, you will have to weigh risk against reward and pros against cons. As you sort this out, here are some factors I would consider:
- Talk to your principal now, while you’re still considering. As someone connected with both the school and central admin level, they will likely have good advice for you. I know it might seem like you’re putting them in a bind, but a good principal 1) knows this is part of the job, and 2) will support your professional journey, wherever that takes you.
- Picture yourself turning it down. Will you look back and regret not trying?
- Ask if you can talk to someone on the curriculum design team off the record. Meet them for coffee to find out more about the role, what a normal day looks like, the highs and lows of the job.
- Will you need to work summers?
- How often are there openings at your current school? How often are there openings on the curriculum team?
- Finally, think about long-term goals for yourself and your family and how an increase in pay might fit in with those goals.
If this is something you really want to try, I’m on Team Go for It!
Do you have a burning question? Email us at email@example.com.
My first year at my school, the other newbies and I formed a group chat to compare experiences, ask questions, and bond. But somewhere in the last couple of years, the group chat turned toxic. It’s gossipy (not venting but just mean) and puts me in a terrible mood. Plus, I feel like there’s this expectation to validate whoever is complaining, whether or not there’s a perfectly reasonable solution to their problem. I feel like simply leaving the group will be perceived as dramatic or spiteful when it’s really just to not feel so annoyed all the time. What do I do? —Group Chat? More Like Poop Chat