11 Times Principals Took Their Rules for Teachers Way Too Far

No coffee is bad enough, but rule #6…

Crazy School Rules for Teachers

Teachers put up with a lot. Low pay, long hours, high expectations, difficult parents… the list goes on. So it certainly doesn’t help when principals make rules that are just a little over the top. We asked our Facebook followers to share the ridiculous school rules that make their lives more difficult, and oh boy, did they ever respond. Here are best of the worst, and we swear they are all real (though we’re keeping them anonymous, of course).  

1. The Annoying Sign-In Book…

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A surprising number of schools require teachers to sign in at the office each morning. This can create plenty of problems. For instance, an awful lot of teachers often arrive before their administrators do. “We had to remember to interrupt our work in our classrooms and walk back to the office after the sign-in book was out,” reports one teacher. “Every teacher has to stop in the office and say hello to the principal before school starts,” says another. “I have kids in my classroom as early as an hour before school starts…he gets in a half hour later.” 

One teacher reported not getting paid for the day if they didn’t sign in (we’re pretty sure that’s not legal). And then there’s the school that wants you to plan your emergencies: “I had to leave during the day to pick up my injured child. I notified the front office staff, who arranged coverage for my class. The next day the principal announced a rule that all emergencies had to be cleared by her 24 hours in advance.” Um, what?

2. …And The Dreaded Late Book

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Running late? Get ready to be shamed by… THE LATE BOOK. “Our secretary monitored the sign-in book,” one teacher shared. “At 7 am, she removed it and replaced it with the dreaded LATE BOOK. Staff waiting in line were required to put the reason for their late arrival. One friend wrote, ‘having sex with my husband.'”

Another teacher once walked into school with her principal an hour early. “When I went into the office to sign in, she said ‘Come back later, it’s not ready.’ I came back right before my duty started and she marked me late!”

3. Staff Meeting Shenanigans

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Speaking of running late, teachers at one school better be on time for their morning staff meeting. “Staff meetings started at 7:30 am ON THE DOT. The principal watched the time on her phone and locked the door immediately when the time changed to 07:30:00. Then she proceeded to laugh at the teachers running across campus and encouraged us to laugh and jeer at them too. They were not allowed in and were later reprimanded for missing the meeting.”

Oh, and while we’re all in favor of keeping meetings short, this seems a little excessive: “During district staff meetings a superintendent insisted that instead of clapping your hands together multiple times in applause for any reason we could only clap once. She claimed clapping wasted too much time!”

4. No Coffee (Gasp!) and Other Crazy Drink Rules

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Surely no principal would be cruel enough to take away a teacher’s coffee, right? “I had a principal that banned coffee,” a teacher told us. “The reasoning was if the students couldn’t have it neither could we. I went to university for 5 years to become a teacher… I earned that coffee!” Another teacher said their principal was okay with coffee but no soda, again because students couldn’t have it. “I was livid. I have to have my Diet Coke in the morning!”

Some principals don’t make school rules about what you drink, but how you drink it. “All drinks had to be in a traditional coffee mug with no lid, even water. I don’t even know why but when someone’s water spilled on a computer we were suddenly allowed to have water bottles with lids again.” All of these teachers can count themselves lucky, though, since one principal we heard about doesn’t allow their teachers to drink anything at all in the classroom. “No coffee. No soda. No water. Nothing.” Our throats are dry just thinking about it.

5. Principal or Parking Police?

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Teachers can’t even catch a break from crazy school rules in the parking lot. One school measures how far each car is from the lines, issuing nastygrams to those who don’t park perfectly. At another, teachers have to back in to their parking spots each day (like teachers on their way into work don’t have enough to worry about already). And don’t try to get chatty in the parking lot at this school: “Our principal said staff couldn’t talk in the parking lot, like everyone does when they are arriving for work or leaving at the end of the day. She felt it would look like teachers were talking about her.”

It can’t get worse than that, certainly? Well, we learned about one school that doesn’t have a parking lot at all. Teachers have to park on the street and feed the meters all day.

6. Synchronized Teaching

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Brace yourselves for one of the nuttiest school rules for teachers we’ve ever heard: “Every teacher in a grade level had to be teaching the same thing at the exact same time. The logic was if a student needed to be moved, they would walk in where they left off.” Maybe that doesn’t seem too bad? How about this twist: “When we were observed, if the admin left my room and went into another class of the same grade level, the admin should be able to hear the same lesson continued as if we were on the same script. BUT we were not allowed to share lesson plans.”

On that same note, one teacher says, “If you put anything up on the wall in your class, the same thing had to go up in all the other grade level rooms. It also had to be in the same spot so if students moved rooms they knew exactly where to look.” Just… wow.

7. Hands Off the Copier and Laminator

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Copiers have always been contentious, especially as schools try to save money. One principal requires teachers to prove their copies are “academically beneficial.” Another allots only $20 per teacher per year for copier costs. And then there’s this: “Our admin used to give us each one case of paper each semester and if we ran out we had to buy our own. What usually ended up happening was teachers would go into other teachers’ rooms and steal reams of paper. I always kept my case of paper in the trunk of my car, as did many of my colleagues.”

Then there’s the laminator. Many teachers report having to give all laminating tasks to a trained aide. That may sound okay, but what if the aide is only there one day a week… or month? Or has a serious power trip going? “Our aide would quiz you on why you needed it laminated and you had to promise to use the item for at least three years!”

8. No Soap For You

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Good luck teaching your kids to wash their hands when school rules prohibit soap. “In my daughter’s kindergarten classroom, they weren’t allowed soap (in case the kids ate it?!). She would bring it and hide it from the ‘Health & Safety’ inspectors.” Well, maybe hand sanitizer would be a better choice? “We had all the hand sanitizer in the school taken away because it is flammable,” says one teacher. “I pointed out that so is all the paper and a very good reason to not allow students to have matches!”

We also loved the story of the principal whose office wall adjoined the staff bathroom, so she used it as an opportunity to monitor paper towel usage. If she heard someone “pumping” the paper towel dispenser more than twice, she’d scold them for wasting paper. One teacher grew so tired of it she started using the student bathrooms.

9. Get Out Your Measuring Tape

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While many teachers have abandoned traditional rows of desks in favor of flexible seating, some aren’t so lucky. One teacher told us school rules state that her classroom must have “desks in rows, facing forward, and at least eight inches apart.” And don’t put away the measuring tape just yet—another principal requires all window shades in the entire building to be at the same height.

At least students still get desks. Teachers aren’t always so lucky. “We were never allowed to sit down,” one teacher told us. “The principal actually tried to remove our teacher desks and chairs so we were ‘always teaching’.”

10. No Consequences Before Christmas

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Sure, all kids need a period of adjustment when school starts in the fall. But how long should it last? At one school, “teachers cannot write any disciplinary referrals or give suspensions before Christmas. Consequently, by Halloween, the students are running the school, not the staff.” So much for behavior having consequences.

Another teacher has a similar problem. “We were not allowed to call parents. We were also not allowed to email parents. We were allowed to communicate POSITIVE NOTES ONLY by writing in the student’s agenda.” Hopefully not too positive, though, since one teacher told us, “I could only use two exclamation points when writing notes and things to parents. Don’t want to show too much excitement.” And no grading with red ink—it stresses kids out, according to some school rules.

11. And Absolutely No Complaining

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We all know it’s important to keep a positive attitude, especially around students. But sometimes we need to blow off a little steam in private. Don’t expect to do that just anywhere, though. “I worked for a school district once where the superintendent would not allow us to have a lounge/workroom because ‘Teachers just go in there to gossip’.” (I mean, it’s not just to gossip, right? That’s also usually where the coffee maker is.)

Don’t try it at home, either. “When I was hired I was told that I was not allowed to complain about ANYTHING work-related to anyone who did not work for the school… including my husband,” shared one teacher. Better start checking your home for hidden cameras, I guess.

What school rules drive you particularly crazy? Share them in the comments below, and check out this post on Ridiculous Dress Code Rules for another laugh or two.

Posted by Jill Staake

Jill Staake is a writer living in Tampa, Florida. She's spent most of her life teaching in traditional classrooms and beyond, from 8th grade English to butterfly encounters, and believes learning is a life-long process.

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