Help! Is It “Cruel” To Get a Puppy When I’m a Teacher? 

I already paid a deposit to get an English springer spaniel puppy.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I’ve put off getting a dog throughout college and my first few years of teaching because I wanted to wait until I could provide it with a happy life. I do live alone and have a 30-minute commute to school. But now that I’m financially stable, have summers off, have a more manageable schedule, and live in an apartment with a dog run, I think I could be a great dog owner. I paid a deposit to get an English springer spaniel puppy just as school is letting out so I’ll have time to train her. My parents are furious, saying that with a teaching schedule, it’s cruel to get a dog. What are your thoughts? 

—pawsitively prepared

Dear P.P.,

Oh, I love so many things here:

  • Dogs
  • Teachers
  • Your commitment to making sure you can offer a dog a happy life
  • Your parents’ concern, because I think it comes from a good place
  • The mere thought of an English springer spaniel puppy. Hang on. I think I need to Google them. GOOD HEAVENS their little freckled legs and bellies have sent me into orbit!

OK. Let’s move on to the less fun part.


I think “cruel” is a harsh word for this situation. I do think there are some factors to consider on your route to pet ownership, though.

First, bird dogs are some of the highest-energy breeds. I’m no dog expert, but anecdotally I can tell you they are very, very hard to wear out. My husband had a German shorthair pointer from before we got married, and even between a 2-mile morning run with me and a 5-mile run with my husband in the evenings, he was still doing parkour all over the walls, furniture, and humans in our house—and that was at age 5!

Second, a puppy is a puppy for much longer than just a summer. Often, the biting, chewing, jumping, and human energy dedicated to training and retraining lasts years. (See my earlier point about our 5-year-old bionic GSP.)

Similarly, sometimes people forget when they get a dog that it needs to fit into their future life, not just their present life. Think about your personal and professional goals over the next 10 years. Do you plan to start a family? Move? Will caring for a high-energy breed fit into those plans?

Here’s what I would do. Before you do anything, find a Facebook group of English springer spaniel owners. Be honest about your schedule, commute, the size of your apartment, your expectations, and ask for their guidance on whether they’d recommend this breed for you as a starter dog. Speak, too, with a representative at a local shelter about all of your lifestyle factors. A shelter might be able to set you up with a foster opportunity as well as recommend what breeds (or ages) of dogs might be right for you at this time.

You may have to make some tough choices and readjust your expectations. But having a teacher’s schedule and being a responsible dog owner are not mutually exclusive. And remember, if you decide a puppy isn’t right for you right now, who’s to say it won’t be right for you later on?

ETA: So many readers weighed in with helpful options I forgot: hiring either a daily dog walker or looking into local doggy daycares. Just look into the pricing and reviews ahead of time!

Dear We Are Teachers,

I have to prepare a sample lesson for the second round of an interview in a couple of weeks. I have several questions. 1. Would it be better to show a less impressive lesson I feel more comfortable with, or a VERY impressive lesson that isn’t guaranteed to go perfectly? 2. When I request a personal day to be out for this interview, what should I tell my current principal? 3. Do you have any other tips for teaching a sample lesson for an interview?


Dear I.I.,

1. When the stakes are high and there’s potential for nerves, I always recommend the more comfortable route. Yes, the beaded mermaid bridal gown might be stunning, but you can actually dance in the full skirt one (and it has pockets!). Yes, the direct flight is more expensive, but do you really want to risk more delays with a layover just before your big conference speech? You get the picture.

Your interview panel isn’t looking (or shouldn’t be looking, at least) to be blown away by the lesson itself. They’re looking at you. They want to see if you’re someone with classroom presence who can connect with students, keep their cool under pressure, and engage students in learning. Your best bet at accomplishing that is if you feel confident and comfortable.

2. You will be sick and you will use a sick day. (Consider this: If you don’t get the job, do you want your current principal to know you’re looking around?)

3. Yes! Ask if you can arrive early to set up, and use that time to observe students, get a sense of behavior management, etc. Try to bring everything you can instead of relying on your host teacher for materials. (Think about the stomach-drop if you suddenly hear, “Oh, I forgot you needed markers!” or “We don’t have the computer cart today.”) Plus, here are 10 elements to include in your demo lesson and some of our best interview tips.

Good luck!

Dear We Are Teachers,

I got called into my AP’s office this week for not turning in my lesson plans on time (they’re due Sunday by 11 p.m. every week and I sent them at 7:11 Monday morning). I apologized and said I was very tired after a long weekend. He responded, “Well, you weren’t too tired to write a Facebook status at 11:30 p.m.,” and pulled up a screenshot on his phone. Then he said I could either take accountability and apologize for lying or be written up for insubordination. I was angry and told him to go ahead and write me up, and I’ve been fuming about it ever since. I don’t know how he got my Facebook status—we’re not friends and I have my account set to private. Can administrators punish you for information they obtain about your personal life?

P.S. My status was about how tired I was from the long weekend!


Dear I.,

Where do you work? I’m asking because I’d love to interview an administrator with enough time to care this much about something so egregiously petty. Clearly, this is a school without any student discipline, phones, chronic absenteeism, upset parents, student violence, test scores, or paperwork to take care of! (*Stares in sarcasm*)

Here’s the thing. It sounds like this isn’t your first scuffle with this cream-faced loon (let me know if you need more satisfying Shakespearean insults). Without an intervention, I don’t see him magically softening toward you and letting you off his radar anytime soon.

If you’d rather not rock any boats, you could meet with him and apologize. People with giant egos tend to accept “You were right, my liege” pretty quickly. Then, go nuclear on your Facebook friends list. Someone you both know sent him that screen shot, and that’s weird.

But if you’re feeling up for some boat-rocking, talk to a union representative at your school about the situation. Even if you’re not in a union, they can advise you on whether or not the write-up is justified and what your next course of action should be.

Edited to add: A reader wrote in and asked, how can this AP demand work outside of contract hours? A brilliant point!

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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