I’m in my first year of teaching. A few times last semester, my principal called me on a Sunday about helping to provide coverage for another teacher, which I didn’t think was a big deal. But now, my principal regularly calls on the weekend or during evenings with all sorts of requests. The latest was if I could start holding afternoon tutorials for our department. It’s my first year of teaching—is this normal? —The Number You Have Dialed Is Not on Contract Hours
It’s not normal, but I think a better question is whether this is above board or not. To me, this situation reads like a principal who has identified a “yes” person on her staff and violates boundaries she knows you won’t push back on. She might not be thinking about it in those terms—I’m betting she just thinks, “Wow, Stacy is such a team player. I’m so glad I can count on her when I’m stuck in a bind.” But that doesn’t make it OK.
I would take action in two phases. If the weekend calls stop after phase 1, great. If not, move on to phase 2.
Phase 1: Stop answering her calls. Respond via email on Monday morning (during your contract hours) and say, “Hi, I saw your missed call on Sunday. I was at a family reunion this weekend. What can I help with?”
Phase 2: If she continues to call or digs into why you’re not answering her weekend calls, be honest with what your boundaries are. “I’m trying to create a better work-life balance for myself. I’ve been spending more time on the weekends staying busy with friends and family and practicing self-care so that I can bring my best self to work during my contract hours. My lines of communication are always open while I’m at school, though!”
Be careful, too, about the extras she’s asking of you. If you want to do them and you’re either getting paid or they fall within your contract hours, fine. But holding a boundary on unpaid labor is something else you may want to consider.
My contract has not been renewed for next year, and I still have two observations—one 45-minute and a walk-through. Can I just ask my principal if we cancel these? It seems like a waste of time for her and an unnecessary stressor for me. —Yes, I’m Sure I Want To Unsubscribe
I wouldn’t, and here’s why: Your principal (or someone who works closely with your principal) will likely provide a reference for your next job.
I totally understand wanting to opt out of the unnecessary pressure of observations, but asking to opt out of feedback for the rest of the year could send the wrong message: that you’ve given up and don’t care, that you think you’re above coaching, or both.
Many of the skills you gained as a teacher will carry over to another job, whether that’s in teaching or another field. So don’t opt out of feedback that could be useful to you in another role.
You might discover that not having a renewed contract might lower the pressure of an observation. And if it doesn’t, take comfort that you only have two left.
My little sister just got her first teaching job starting this fall (I’m a teacher too), and I want to gift her with a “In Case of Emergency” tub filled with fun and useful goodies. I have ideas for first aid, snacks, and office supplies. What else should I include? —Proud Big Sister
What a fun idea! Here are some things I would have loved having in an emergency tub. Keep in mind these will add up quickly, so I only recommend picking a couple favorites on a teacher budget.
- An inexpensive maxi dress or other professional outfit. Teach long enough and you will have an accident—often bodily fluids, forces of nature, or wardrobe malfunctions—that forces you to drive home and change. Mine was accidentally wearing a brewery shirt to school when I thought it was my college shirt (luckily I noticed this before any of my students). I love this one for a go-to.
- A cheap pair of shoes for the same reason. These $15 blue suede ballet flats get an A+ from me.
- A handheld vacuum. Tiny beads! Glitter! Confetti! Now you don’t have to spend 20 minutes picking them out from underneath your desks and tables. This top-rated one comes with a handy wall mount.
- An herbal aromatherapy neck wrap. Stress is totally an emergency, OK?
- Some toiletry essentials. Toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant definitely fall under the “emergency” category in my book. Also body wipes (that don’t smell like baby wipes) for when you need a shower after the fire drill that inexplicably lasted an hour and 15 minutes.
- A tiny sewing kit. Also helpful for wardrobe malfunctions, but I often got mine out for students who needed it for projects. Plus, the needles can come in handy for popping all the science-fair balloons when students don’t listen to you about not blowing them up in class. (What? I have balloon anxiety.)
Check out our list of desk essentials too! Some fall under the categories you already covered, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek.
Do you have a burning question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m new to middle school this year, and I’m having a particularly hard time with “I wasn’t ___.” You now have a zero for talking during the test. “I wasn’t talking.” It’s inappropriate to be laughing during this lesson. “I wasn’t laughing.” Bring me your phone, please. “I wasn’t on my phone.” I know that teachers aren’t supposed to engage in power struggles with students, but what am I supposed to do when they try to tell me my reality is wrong? —Gaslighter, You Liar