Education

Help! My Principal Grades Teachers Like We’re Students

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I teach high school. Our principal had us join a Google Classroom he created back in August, but he left out that we would have weekly homework and other meaningless tasks that fall outside our contract. We get actual grades sent back (I got a B–!) and feedback like “Follow directions next time.” It’s a huge waste of time and insulting to us as professionals. How do we shut this down? —Thirty Going on Thirteen

Dear T.G.O.T.,

My first reaction reading this is that a faculty Google Classroom would actually be a great way for a principal to keep track of forms, surveys, newsletters, announcements, and other things that tend to clog email inboxes. (How great would it be to never again get a school-wide email reminder of something that only applies to three people?)

When I realized your situation wasn’t that, I wondered if the principal had designed a miserable two-week social experiment to show teachers some of the downsides of the student-user side of Google Classroom.

But no. It appears to be an inexplicable move (maybe a power play?) by your principal. Gross.

You’ve said these activities fall outside your contract. I agree in theory, but I could see him arguing that this qualifies as “other duties as assigned.” Instead, maybe help him to see that there are better ways of utilizing Google Classroom with faculty.

Choose your adventure based on the risk level you’re most comfortable with:

  • If you’re in a union, ask your rep about this. If you’re not, ask a union teacher (my bet is they’ve already checked).
  • Help your principal to see there are better ways to utilize Google Classroom with faculty that are more useful to teachers. Offer to show him how to post and organize newsletters, set up tracking for forms, and create announcements. If there’s an article or video he wants teachers to use, show him how to post it and then ask for teacher responses verbally at the next faculty meeting.
  • Have a crucial conversation about the purpose of his faculty Google Classroom. “I want to honor your leadership decisions and be an active part of bettering our campus. That said, a lot of us are wondering about the value our faculty Google Classroom adds. I’d love to hear from your perspective how our assignments align with our school mission and district initiatives.”
  • Take one for the team and see what happens if you apologetically and politely forget your homework for a few weeks.

What? I never said my advice was always professional.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I just moved to a new district over the summer and am stunned at how cliquey my school is. I get that people naturally form friendships at work, but I feel like I can’t break through with my team or in any other preexisting circle here. Help! —Will You Be My Friend? Check Yes or No

Dear W.Y.B.M.F.C.Y.O.N.,

Can we just take a moment to acknowledge the genuine bummer of adults being clueless about others’ feelings? Ugh.

With the teachers at your school, it might not be the case that they don’t want you in their friend group, but they might be oblivious that “outsiders” could want in. Reaching out to new faculty seems like it should be a huge duh in a profession that encourages kids to be kind and inclusive, but it might not occur to these teachers that they’re being exclusive during a year where so many other things could be at the forefront of their attention. Here are some quick tips on forming workplace friendships:

  • Don’t try to get in with people who don’t feel like the right fit. If the cliques all seem like people who aren’t your people, don’t try to ingratiate yourself!
  • All you need is one. Though I’m friendly by nature, I tended to have just one or two really close teacher friends at my schools. Sometimes this happened instantly, and sometimes it took over a semester to see personalities emerge that I wanted to be around or emulate. Be patient : )
  • Find ways to connect where you feel comfortable. If you like happy hours and get-togethers, join in! If those aren’t your jam, reach out about commonalities or ask questions to get to know your coworkers. “Hey, I saw the Iron Man sticker on your car this morning. What a huge accomplishment! Where was your race?” “What a gorgeous scarf! You made it? I crochet too!”
  • Cookies. If all else fails, order a bunch of really delicious cookies from a local bakery and ask if you can send out a faculty-wide email. “I have a gigantic cookie tray in my room because … it’s Tuesday. Please stop by room (201) at some point today and help me eat them!” This will give you a natural opportunity to chat and meet folks at your school. Make sure to have a few gluten-free and vegan options on hand.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
One of our teachers is currently on leave while being investigated for … something. The rumor mill is flying between parent groups, teachers, and students as to what the allegations are, but one thing is clear: Everyone is already sure he’s guilty. I of course want justice to be done if he’s committed a crime, but if it turns out he’s innocent, I feel like his reputation is already ruined. What, if anything, can I do? —On Jury Duty in the Court of Public Opinion

Dear O.J.D.I.T.C.O.P.O.,

Yikes. This is sticky.

I’m glad that you’re thinking of both possibilities here. If he’s truly innocent, it would be heartbreaking to come back to a school intent on demonizing him. On the other hand, if he’s guilty of something awful, trying to squash rumors could look like defense in hindsight (especially to a victim).

This is an area where your administrator needs to step in. Email your principal and ask for direction on what to do when you hear rumors from teachers and students. Even if it turns out the allegations are unfounded, you have documentation that you made due effort to handle the situation professionally.

If you don’t get any direction from your principal, it’s important to address rumors you hear from students anyway. Redirect them in a way so they know you take legitimate concerns seriously, but that it’s inappropriate to throw rumors around.

“I’ve been overhearing some very serious accusations. If you know information relevant to a crime, I want to remind you that the appropriate person to talk to is a counselor, teacher, or parent who can be a part of making sure the investigation is thorough.”

As far as other teachers spreading rumors, you can always remove yourself from the conversation. But I also think it’s appropriate to say a version of what you said in your question. “I want justice to be done, and I think it’s important to remember our legal system is based on the presumption of innocence until then.”

Do you have a burning question? Email us at [email protected].

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I teach 9th and 10th grade math in Dallas at a school where 90% of the students are Black and Hispanic. In one of my classes, I have two students who laugh very loudly together—so loud it’s a distraction. I’ve redirected them nearly every day since the beginning of the year, but it’s still a daily problem. Last week, I jokingly told them they needed to learn how to laugh quieter, and one of them said that was racist. I pointed out that if I were racist, why would I be teaching at their school? That landed me in hot water with my admin. I’m not racist—at all—and am offended that apparently everyone except me gets to decide what my motivations are. How do I come back from this? —Colorblind


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