Lately my partner teacher has been asking me to cover when she leaves half an hour early to go to her other job, or watch her class while she takes a call for her other job. Our contract is pretty clear that we can’t be employed somewhere else that conflicts with our teaching position. Should I tell someone? —At Capacity in Rapid City
With teacher salaries what they are, I can’t criticize another teacher for having a second job. But having one that interferes with her current responsibilities is tricky. It seems like the problem here is not her job, but that you’re constantly the one filling in the gaps. And while that’s happening, your students (and hers) might be missing out.
As far as a contract goes, that’s an agreement your partner teacher has with your school. But you have a sort of agreement with each other too. As partner teachers, you should be supporting each other equally. Maybe that looks like class coverage if it happens occasionally, but on a regular basis it is unfair.
Talk to your partner teacher first. “You know I’m always happy to support you. But it’s getting a little hard for me to manage two classes on a regular basis. Can we talk about some solutions that will allow me to have a little more flexibility with my classes?”
If she doesn’t change her schedule after that conversation, it’s fair to talk to an administrator. You did your due diligence trying to work it out with her first.
I had my first child six weeks ago. My administrator, knowing I was in labor, texted to ask me for my sub plans. I texted from my hospital bed that I’d already shared my mat leave plans with my sub and my coworker, and he said, “Yeah, but I can’t get a hold of either of them.” I figured out how to send them through my phone, but I’m still mad about this and want to confront the administrator when I get back. What should I say? —Mama Bear With a Level 3 Tear
In my reality-show fantasy, I’d like to hook your administrator up to one of those pain simulator machines, blast him at contraction level for a few hours, and then text him to do a task I was perfectly capable of doing myself. That, I think, would be the only fair thing.
Even though I’m (clearly) livid on your behalf, I’m not sure it’s worth a conversation at this point. Saying “Hey, you did a real bone-headed thing three months ago” would be accurate and deserved, but I’m not sure it would result in the heartfelt apology you’re looking for. Also consider that the first day returning to work is often a super-emotional time for most new parents. If you want to have that conversation, you have every right. But maybe sit on it until you’re well-adjusted in your new teacher-mama role.
I might, however, make a call to your district’s HR and say, “I was illegally asked to work during my maternity leave while I was in labor. You might want to review this policy with personnel in the district. If this happened to someone else, they’d have every right to take legal action.”
I can bet a strongly worded reminder will be sent to all administrators faster than the time it takes to breathe through a contraction.
At our in-service day in January, our principal had us take a personality test. It was cringe enough to share them with the rest of the faculty, but now we’re being asked to include it in our email signature. Obviously, I’m not a fan of the activity in the first place, but it seems like a violation of privacy to have it attached to all our emails. Should I talk to my principal about it? —INFU
At some point in a teacher’s career (my guess is sooner rather than later), they’ll be faced with a weird or bad school initiative. I have a three-step process I talk about more in-depth here on how to decide whether to just go with the flow or provide feedback to your administrator.
- Think about what’s at stake. What do you risk by taking action? What do you risk with inaction?
- List all your options and their potential consequences. Making a list might help you realize other slightly chaotic options you hadn’t considered. Off the top of my head: using a personality type for your email signature that is obviously, comically not you.
- Make a decision based on your needs, your students’ needs (not applicable in this case), and the consequences you’re willing to accept. At my first school, my principal was a screamer. As a person who is intensely scream-avoidant, I often just went with the flow because the consequences (self-combustion) weren’t worth it to me. With other more rational principals, though, I felt more comfortable voicing my opinion.
Hopefully with this process, you’ll come to a decision that feels right (or someone will have talked your principal out of this weird idea during the meantime).
Editor at WeAreTeachers
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I love and believe in giving back. But it seems like every other day at my school, we’re asked to pay $5 for a jeans pass, chip in for refreshments at the dance, pay fees to join the PTO (my principal wants 100% teacher participation), donate a gift card to one of our families in need, etc. I know I sound like Scrooge, but when I only make $32K a year, these things add up! Will it reflect poorly on me if I opt out? —Scrooge in Room 201