Help! Should I Have To Interview My Replacement Teacher?

Dear We Are Teachers,

I’m leaving my 3rd grade position at the end of the year on good terms with my principal and school. My principal asked if I’d be willing to sit in as part of a panel for interviews for my replacement. I said yes at first, thinking it might be helpful for me to provide feedback on the position. But the more I think about it, I don’t really know what I could contribute. Other teachers at our school and my partner teacher will all be on the panel and can provide any relevant information. Will it look bad if I change my mind and say no? 

—Awkward interview turtle

Dear A.I.T.,

My initial reaction is that I don’t see why it would be a big deal. Wouldn’t it be kind of fun (in a nosy sort of way) to sit in on interviews with potential replacements? But then I realized a few things:

  • I agree—I don’t know what you could contribute. The people with the most at stake are your partner teacher and principal. Their sense of whether or not the candidate fits with the team and school culture matters more than yours does. And unless you teach a highly specialized content area, there’s not a lot only you would know to ask a candidate.
  • This might be a big time commitment. Especially if the interviews are held on different days.
  • Your influence might hurt more than it helps. You might be looking for someone exactly like you when what your team actually might need is a total wild card. 

Say this to your principal: “I’ve been thinking about the interviews. I’m so flattered that you’d want me on the panel, and I’m, of course, interested in the candidates. But the more I think about it, the more I think it might be best for the decision to come from you and [partner teacher]. I’m happy to give my opinion if you need a tie-breaker, though.” I think that’s more than fair.

Dear We Are Teachers,

When I took my current kindergarten teaching job a year ago, I bought a condo in the area that I absolutely love. What I don’t love is that I see families EVERYWHERE. Three families live in my condominium neighborhood and several live in the surrounding neighborhood. I can’t walk my dog, go to the grocery store, or even get my mail without having an impromptu parent-teacher conference. And forget about going on dates—I’m too nervous I’ll be spotted and become parent-group-text gossip! Should I move or just get over it?

—Considering Witness Protection

Dear C.W.P.,

Ha! I’ve been in this situation before. It freaked me out a little at first. But the more I got used to it, the more it felt like a little Stars Hollow situation. One of my student’s dads even patched a flat tire for me!

Only you can decide whether moving or staying is right for you. But since moving is one of life’s royal pains, I’d recommend trying these things first:

  • Set some polite but firm boundaries when running into families. For the rest of this school year, if a parent tries to talk about issues with school, say, “Oh, I’m happy to talk about this! Shoot me an email and we can schedule a time to chat.” And at the beginning of next year, make it super clear during back-to-school that you can’t discuss academic or classroom concerns in public.
  • Go grocery shopping around 7 p.m. or later. Families are at home at that time! Even better if your grocery store offers curbside service.
  • Lean into the awkwardness. I think during the pandemic we all got used to isolation, so our small-talk muscles are still flimsy. I’m not saying you need to pull up a chair at a family’s table when you spot them in your local Mexican restaurant. But remember, they’re saying hi because they’re excited to see you. Giving them a moment of your time can go a long way. And like anything that’s a struggle, you’ll get better with practice!

All of that said, there are plenty of teachers who intentionally live far from where they teach. So if you do decide that’s better for you, you’re not alone!

Dear We Are Teachers,

I am an English as a Foreign Language teacher. My middle school students have a very limited understanding of English. However, thanks to the Internet, they do know a few bad words in English that they often repeat in the classroom. When I redirect them, they ask, “What does it mean?” and I feel stuck. I don’t want to explain what many of these explicit words and phrases mean, but I also don’t want them using this language in the classroom (or elsewhere) not knowing what it means. How should I respond the next time this happens? Should I play along and tell them what the words mean, or just ignore them?

—Please Don’t Make Me Describe an “A**hole”

Dear P.D.M.M.D.A.A.,

First, your sign-off is wonderful.

Aren’t middle school boys a hoot and a holler? I’m amazed that across languages, cultures, and continents, teen and preteen boys love to make their teachers feel weird (see more proof of that here). I will tell you this: They’re very aware these words are bad. How else would they have known what words in their native language to look up? And they are loving—loving!— watching you squirm.

At the beginning of your next class, say this, even if you have to put it in Google Translate: “We need to talk about something that has been happening in class. I know you’ve been curious about some bad words in English. That’s a totally normal thing to be curious about, and some people do use these words. But they are not appropriate for the classroom or for school. In fact, we have school rules and consequences for using them. From now on, if I hear these words or see them written from you, there will be consequences, starting with calling your parents. Does everyone understand?”

That way, you’re not shaming them or being a morality gatekeeper, but still communicating you’re onto them. 

Also, see if you can limit their Internet access in your class. That might also be an appropriate consequence. You’re watching YouTube videos on bad words instead of using your computer for what was assigned? You’re working analog-style now, buddy.

Those little toots. Bless their hearts.

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Dear We Are Teachers,

It’s my 10th year teaching 9th grade World Geography. After the pandemic, like a lot of schools, we’ve seen a huge rise in absenteeism. What used to be a handful of kids is now more like 20%. What’s unusual is that parents are fully aware of these absences. They’ll write in that their child was “having a bad morning” or “didn’t sleep well” or that they’re leaving early for spring break … in a year where they already have 20 absences. It feels insulting and makes teaching impossible. Is there anything we can do? And should we take it up with individual parents or our administration?  


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