This week, Ask WeAreTeachers takes on a colleague stealing work on Google Classroom, teaching consent in kindergarten, and more.
My colleague is taking my work off of Google Classroom
I’ve been working at my school for five years now, three in third grade with the same teammate. We’ve always kind of done our own thing. But now that we’re virtual, they want to “collaborate.” Unfortunately, their definition of collaboration is just stealing my work from my Google Classroom. Sometimes they even take things before I’m done working on them and then have the nerve to complain about quality. But they still take it. How should I address this? Should I? I’m busting my tail to prep, and they’re just skating by using my work. —Burning The Midnight Oil
Ooh, that’s rough. I can see why you would be frustrated. I think it’s important not to let that fester. It’s time to have a hard conversation with your colleague. Assume the best intentions until you have reason to believe otherwise. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Everyone’s struggling. But that doesn’t make what they’re doing OK, and your feelings are valid.
Teacher Niko Olsen recommends the following: “Have a conversation with that colleague to find out why they’re taking the work and transparently share your feelings so that the colleague is aware of the effect of their actions. Coming up with more set boundaries and guidelines on who is contributing what would seem to be helpful.”
As a last resort, and if the conversation gets snagged, you can have admin help guide the discussion and set the boundaries.
I want to teach consent to kindergarteners without upsetting parents
I’m a brand new teacher this year, and I was assigned kindergarten. Lately, I’ve noticed that my kids are crossing boundaries with each other, touching each other’s hair and pulling on clothes. It’s pretty clear the targeted students don’t like it, but the offenders aren’t exactly taking the hint. I’d like to do some lessons around consent, but I’m worried that I’ll get pushback from my more conservative families. So my question is: how do I teach consent to 5 year-olds in a way that won’t get me in trouble? —Teaching Consent in Kinder
It’s so important to teach consent to children. I think some parents get worked up about it because it’s so often associated with sex. But really, consent just means permission. It applies to all the situations you mentioned. I would do some pre-teaching with parents to let them know what you’re teaching and why. I think understanding that teaching consent is about giving their kids the tools to have healthy relationships throughout the lives is key to getting parent buy-in.
In terms of instruction, you’ll want to lay the foundation for understanding consent using simple words like body, touch, and space. School psychologist and kindergarten mom Amy Williams recommends the book Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect.She goes on to say, “I think a great way to teach about body boundaries would be to take kindergarten kids outside and draw chalk silhouettes around their bodies to have a visual representation.”
It sounds like your students in particular (and it’s not surprising at their age) need help reading non-verbal cues. So when you read books or witness interactions, narrate for them: “Lucas looks upset. I don’t think he likes that.”
This remote teaching and parenting balancing act is the pits
I’m a mom to a one-year-old. When I came back from maternity leave, I put her in daycare. But when COVID hit, I lost my childcare. It’s since opened back up, but it’s not reliable. We’ve had closures due to outbreaks, and my kid’s had to quarantine. I’m 100 percent virtual, which is hard enough without having to chase a toddler around. I am expected to be online, provide feedback, and keep my students engaged all day while simultaneously caring for the not insignificant needs of a tiny human. Help! —Chicken with My Head Cut Off
It’s an impossible situation, and you are not alone. The childcare crunch caused by the pandemic has been shouldered almost entirely by women. In our female-dominated profession, it’s no wonder teacher moms have been hit hard. It’s yet another example of the need for systemic change. Our society does not support working mothers, as evidenced by the lack of paid maternity leave (I mean, my husband got more days than I did, and I’m the one who pushed the baby out).
But that doesn’t help you in the short term. While we’re waiting (and voting) for change, here are some words of wisdom from teacher and mom of three, Michelle Medina: “There’s been good days and bad days with remote learning and having littles. I think the saving grace was knowing that we all were going through the same thing together, and everyone was dealing with something while being at home. My advice to others remote learning with littles is to give yourself grace and prioritize what’s most important in the moment.”
Consider asking for help and setting boundaries wherever you can. This is really, really hard. Put your oxygen mask on first.
If I want a personal day, the secretary wants all the tea
I’m a veteran high school teacher, and I’ve always understood that my discretionary leave was to be taken at, you know, my own discretion. But my office manager grills me every time I come back after some time off. I don’t think she’s just making friendly conversation. I definitely get the feeling she’s trying to figure out if me taking personal leave is “legitimate.” Is it just me, or is that really intrusive?—Just Minding My Own Business
Totally inappropriate. Your leave is your business. Some places are starting to understand that. I’m personally a fan of districts that employ a “no questions asked” paid time off policy. And I know others have gone to “wellness” leave vs. sick leave so that there’s no need to prove that you were actually sick (you know, treating you like the professional you are).
If it was your principal making these comments, that would be another issue. But given that this person is not your supervisor, I think it’s mostly an annoyance. However, it’s not in your best interest to make an enemy of the office manager. I would do your best to ignore and just remember that you don’t owe her an explanation for why you’ve been gone.
If anything happens that feels retaliatory; you can escalate it to your administration.
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More Advice From WeAreTeachers
I’ve been in the classroom for more than a decade, so this isn’t my first rodeo. Since last March, I’ve been teaching virtually. I’ve had my fair share of parents acting up on Zoom: swearing in the background, vacuuming, etc., I’ve always been able to handle it… until now. The dad of one of my fifth graders has special needs, and, frankly, his behavior is worse than his kid’s. During my lessons, he’s usually on camera with his student. He will scream, interrupt to talk to kids, and make faces. How do I handle this sensitively?