Last year, my best teacher friend of over 10 years was selected to be our next principal. I thought I had reasonable expectations of what might change in our friendship, but it feels like she’s now keeping our entire friendship at arm’s length. She told me we can’t talk about work (at all—like not even why the A/C in the gym is broken). She also said we can’t hang out anywhere in public or pal around with each other at school because it’ll look like she has favorites. I get that her new job is important to her, but these boundaries seem unreasonable. Should I just accept that this is the end of our friendship? —So Long, Boss BFF
This is a giant bummer. I’m sorry the transition has been this stark.
My instincts say that because this new role is important (and likely super intimidating) for your friend, she’s coming down hard on boundaries to protect it and do a good job. Some of them are probably good boundaries to have. Being glued at the hip at school wouldn’t be a good look. Talking about sensitive work issues could get you both in trouble. (The A/C seems like fair game, but maybe there’s a reason it’s not?)
Give it a few months. I think that by talking to other principals, she’ll start to realize that friendships with employees is a situation more common (and more tenable) than she thinks. With the onslaught of everything we throw at principals, I think she’ll realize that she could really use your friendship. When she does, she’ll be grateful for your patience.
I’m a first grade teacher. I love my job apart from one thing: My principal keeps giving me “the bad kids.” ALL of them. I read your advice about the curse of competence, but I’ve talked to my principal about this before—several times actually—and am always met with compliments or guilt trips about how no one else can do it. School starts in a month—how do I put my foot down more aggressively this year? (P.S. I know they’re not “bad,” I’m just using the identifying language of, well, first graders.) —I’m Not Your Rodeo Clown
If you’ve signed your contract this year, you probably won’t want to say, “Fix this or I’m out.” But you can definitely say, “Fix this or it’s my last year here.”
Don’t say it in those words, though. Say it in these words:
“I’m flattered that you trust in my teaching enough to put challenging students on my roster. But it’s not fair for me or my students to have my teaching diverted by the significant work I do every year on behavior management. I understand if you don’t want to create a more even distribution of challenging students among the other first grade teachers, but I need to be transparent that this is the last year I have the capacity for that kind of responsibility.”
This might nudge your principal into action. But it also might make them dig in their heels. If your principal agrees to make things more fair, make it quantifiable. Divide the number of students kindergarten teachers reported as the biggest behavior concerns among the number of first grade teachers. That should be the ballpark of how many challenging students you should have, and you can refer back to that if there are discussions of transferring students.
If your principal says no, start looking for schools now—even if your principal promises the world next April. I don’t know that a principal who refuses to honor their most talented teacher’s needs is a principal you want to work for.
My sister-in-law (my husband’s sister) and I both have kids the same age. She homeschools, and mine attend the elementary school where I work. Here’s the thing: The demeaning way she talks about public education drives me nuts. I’ve stopped telling her anything about work altogether, but now she’s resorted to asking the kids about school in front of me and saying things like, “You’re not reading chapter books? That’s weird, Ella was reading chapter books at your age. Maybe because we homeschool.” My husband agrees it’s a problem but is a total peacekeeper personality. How do I approach a shutdown of this? —Someone’s About to Get Schooled
I don’t know many homeschooling families. My experience is that because people often judge the choice to homeschool, homeschooling parents are often very careful to not criticize others’ choices. (Again, this is my experience in real life. Social media is another story.)
Your husband might be a peacekeeper, but this is 100% his responsibility to address. His sister not only makes you feel bad but speaks in a demeaning way toward your kids. He needs to set the boundary that either she respects your educational choices—the way you do hers—or he will have to limit the time your family spends with her.
If he feels like he can’t have this conversation, you might need to seek out some professional help. A counselor can help examine all angles of this situation, including how his calm and diplomatic nature will actually be a strength in dealing with his sister.
But until this gets resolved, I don’t think you have an obligation to expose yourself or your kids to her unpleasantness. I’ll write you a sick note.
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