(From the Whiners to the Kiss Ups!)
All teachers know that as much trouble as 30 little ones can cause, sometimes the real obstacle is the other grown-ups in the room. From the Type-A Overachiever to the Negative Nancy, here’s our quick guide to getting along with some of the more challenging personalities you might meet in your teaching career.
Challenging Colleague #1: The Overachiever
This is the teacher who has all of her standards mapped out in August, her lessons spreadsheeted and color-coded and her bulletin boards cut and ready to go. Walking into her classroom is like stepping into a catalog—everything is always in its place, even after arts and crafts. And you’re left feeling like you’ll never measure up.
How to deal: Remember there’s more to good teaching than spreadsheets and charts. If the Overachiever comments about your organization, reply, “I look at messes as proof that learning is happening.” You can also win over the Overachiever by asking her to spill some of her secrets—chances are she’ll be more than happy to share.
Challenging Colleague #2: The Cool Guy
You know the Cool Guy—he wants all of the kids to call him by his first name, he thinks ratty jeans and flip-flops are professional dress and he spends the summer following the same bands as your students. And it’s a given—on the day you give a pop quiz, the Cool Guy announces his surprise: “No homework!”
How to deal: Maintain your professionalism because it’s true—at the end of the day kids like structure. If a student complains, “Mr. Cool Guy wouldn’t make us do this,” try saying “That may be true, but he wouldn’t do this either,” and do something surprising like perform a silly dance or attempt a headstand.
Challenging Colleague #3: The Funky Foodie
Every school has one—the teacher who warms up fish every day in the faculty microwave, or that burns her popcorn any time she makes it. The Funky Foodie is also known for banning birthday treats and pressing her tofu-chia-seed squares on everyone.
How to deal: While it may be tempting to leave a passive-aggressive note in the teacher’s lounge, it will get you nowhere with the Funky Foodie. No, the best route is direct: “Ms. Funky, I know how much you love your tilapia/popcorn/tofu squares, but I can smell your lunch until the end of the day. Any way you can switch it up?”
Challenging Colleague #4: The Bare Minimalist
Recess duty? Chess club? Soccer game? While the rest of your colleagues are there with bells on, the Bare Minimalist is nowhere to be found. He shows up at school five minutes before the first bell and leaves one minute after the last. You’re pretty sure he’s never planned his own lessons, and movie days? Let’s just say he’s a big fan.
How to deal: Don’t enable the Bare Minimalist by handing over your lesson plans or notes from the big faculty meeting. Instead, try speaking with him gently about why he’s so checked out. “Hey, Mr. Minimalist, how are your classes going?” If the problem persists, talk to your principal—because your students deserve more than the minimum!
Challenging Colleague #5: The Negative Nancy
It’s Monday morning, and Negative Nancy is already whining about the week ahead. She can’t wait until Friday. Or winter break. Or until her Western history unit is over. And did she mention how annoying her students are acting? While we all feel a little burned out sometimes, Nancy takes her negativity to extremes.
How to deal: Nod, smile and walk away. No really—nod, smile and walk away. Teaching is hard enough as it is without someone constantly reminding you of the downsides. And it can be potentially harmful to your career to be seen hanging out with the likes of Nancy—chances are your principal is very aware of her bad attitude.
Challenging Colleague #6: The Principal’s Pet
Who’s that speaking up again at the faculty meeting? Why yes, it’s the Principal’s Pet, emphatically agreeing (of course) with the head honcho’s new plan for reading assessment, when it’s obvious there are some big roadblocks to implementation. And yet the Principal’s Pet can’t help himself—he’s a yes man through and through.
How to deal: The way to combat a Principal’s Pet is not to take him—or your principal—on directly. Speak up for your own ideas and outline the pros and cons of any proposals clearly and objectively. Then enlist some colleagues who also feel the way you do to ensure that your voices are being heard.
Question for you: Come on, you can spill it—what are the hardest types of teachers to work with? How do you get along with the adults at your school?