Help! Our High School Parking Lot Is a Death Trap

The AP just laughed it off as one of our workplace hazards.

Illustration of the dangers of a high school parking lot

Dear We Are Teachers,

The students at our high school drive so recklessly I constantly wonder when I or someone else are going to meet our demise on our way into the building. I’ve talked to my AP, but he just said that’s how kids drive. Is there anything that can be done to make things safer? 

—LIVING ON A PRAYER

Dear L.O.A.P.,

Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope for anyone caring about teachers’ safety. Now, student safety (if we’re talking about local leadership and liability) is another story.

Here’s what you do.

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Step 1: Ask students in each class to raise their hand if they’ve ever felt unsafe walking into the building due to reckless student driving. Record names of any yeses.

Step 2: Send an email to your principal. Say, “Many of my students say they feel unsafe walking between the parking lot and building due to reckless driving. I also feel unsafe as a teacher, having had many close calls myself while walking. I’ve attached a list of names that do not feel safe. Please let me know how we plan to address the dangerous driving happening on campus. I know we would both hate for anything to happen to students.” With your and your students’ names attached to a document warning them about unsafe conditions, they’d be very silly to not get to steppin’ ASAP.

Step 3: If for some reason that doesn’t work, email the parents of any students who said yes to feeling unsafe and encourage them to write in to administration.

Is this a little petty? Maybe a tad dramatic? Yes and yes. But you know what it is also? Necessary. As someone who had to play real-life Frogger crossing a four-lane street on foot every day of the 2020-2021 school year to get to the building (during most of which I was pregnant, I might add), I can tell you that not a week went by without an incident where I wondered, “Is this the day I get hit?” One time, a vehicle braked so close that I was able to pat the hood of their rich-lady SUV. And when I emailed the building’s AP very nicely about my concern? Nothing. Thus: Go petty or go home.

I don’t play around with safety.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I’m so tired of hearing that I would understand “if I had kids.” I’ve heard this from administrators (“It’s hard to understand the parent perspective if you’re not a parent”), parents (“Sorry, but I’m not going to take parenting advice from someone who’s not a parent”), and coworkers (“You’d get it if you had kids”). I can’t have children, but even if I could, I think it’s so rude. I’ve been teaching second grade for 20 years—I know a thing or two about children! How do I tell these people to stop being so insensitive and hurtful?

—chided for being childless

Dear C.F.B.C.,

I’m so sorry. Those comments are not only hurtful to you, but shortsighted and just plain incorrect.

Quick caveat. Can sharing an experience help with perspective? Yes—especially if you’re sharing critical feedback. If you’re going around saying, “Kids ought to be seen, not heard!” or “Parents need to stop complaining that parenting is hard!” or “This is what happens when we stop spanking kids!”, then, yeah, I could understand the frustrated response to stay in your lane.

But assuming you’re not going around saying those kinds of things, you don’t have to be a parent to understand children. In fact, plenty of people who are parents have a long way to go in understanding children. The next time someone invalidates your perspective because you’re not a parent, say this:

“You’re right that I don’t share the same experience since I’m not a parent. But my perspective as a professional is still valid.”

It’s firm, but necessarily so. It might feel awkward, so practice it ahead of time. If you feel comfortable, you can add in an “Actually, I can’t have children” to squash any chance of them mentioning it again (and to remind them that sometimes the decision to have children is beyond our control?! Sheesh.).

Dear We Are Teachers,

I’ve interviewed for five jobs now. Each time, the principal has seemed very eager to hire me—and each time, I end up getting a “Sorry, we went with another candidate.” I finally asked the last employer, who told me off-record that my current principal said he could not recommend me (despite having near-perfect evaluations). Needless to say, my principal is a big part of why I’m trying to leave this school. Do I talk to my principal, or give employers a heads-up before they talk to him?

—she’s a 10 but her principal is a tyrant

Dear S.A.10 B.H.P.I.A.T.,

I’ve never understood why some principals make every attempt to keep unhappy teachers that they believe are not good at their jobs.

But this solution is easy! On your next application, put a different leader you trust from your campus in the reference portion instead of your principal. Ideally, choose an AP, dean, appraiser, or department chair, but a team lead, mentor teacher, or counselor will also work. (Do not lie or tell your interviewer this contact is your principal—just list it as the principal if there’s no spot to clarify their actual job title.) I would recommend listing as many of these contacts as you can as references.

If an employer asks, “Can I ask why you didn’t list your principal as the contact?” you say that the contact you provided worked much closer with you and can speak to your teaching, planning, and communication abilities in greater detail.

Principals know better than anyone that there are doofus principals out there. They might even agree with you!

Do you have a burning question? Email us at askweareteachers@weareteachers.com.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I’ve taught AP Lit for 12 years and I’m used to the senioritis that sets in this time of year. But this year, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. The majority of my students are college-bound and have committed to their school of choice, yet I still have about 35% of my class failing right now. I know they need a wake-up call, but “You will not graduate” doesn’t seem to be working. What’s happening? And how do I help them?

—running on empty