Help! I Caught My Principal Having an Affair With a Fellow Teacher

Easy! Get a time machine, go back to that evening, and take a different route out of the building.

Illustration of teacher who caught principal having an affair

Dear WeAreTeachers:
Last week I was at school late, cleaning up after our annual Multicultural Festival. I decided to run back to my room and get a few things done to get ahead for the next morning. Later when I was leaving, I was passing the multipurpose room (where the festival was held) and heard noises coming from inside. Thinking it was kids who’d stayed behind, I opened the door and saw my principal and a fellow teacher at my school all over each other. We were all startled and I practically ran out of the building from awkward panic. They’re both married to other people. I was shocked and I still don’t know what, if anything, I should do. Help! —Looking for Answers and Eyeball Bleach

Dear L.F.A.A.E.B.,

Easy! Get a time machine, go back to that evening, and take a different route out of the building.

This is tricky. My first thought is that if they know you saw them, they’re likely in panic mode. They’re either rushing to be the first one to disclose their relationship to HR, scrambling to speak to you to try to do damage control, or having tough conversations with their families before they find out through the grapevine. Honestly, I would wait for them to make the first move. They have the most at stake professionally and personally.

If they don’t approach you to chat, though, it would be good to use a couple of metrics to determine how/whether to respond.

  • Check your district’s policy or code of conduct on interoffice relationships.
  • Consider whether their relationship is currently or could potentially affect the culture of the school.
  • Think about whether this is bothering you from a moral standpoint or whether this affects your or others’ job performance, particularly your ability to work closely with these two people.

Let these questions inform your decision-making. If you do decide to go to HR, tell your principal and coworker first to give them time to talk to their families.

For me personally, I feel like the affair itself would be none of my business. I would be mad, however, at their boneheaded choice to fool around at school, whether or not it was after hours. What if a child had forgotten something at the festival and come back to the school building hours later? It would be hard for me to not question the decision-making happening at the leadership level after something like this.

But yeah, ideally, see if you can find that time machine.

Dear WeAreTeachers:
I looped up with my students from last year, so I know all our families pretty well. There’s one parent who has created a reputation for herself as a nitpicker (and that’s putting it kindly). Last week she asked if I would fill out a reference form for her … to work at our school. I have a good relationship with her, but I can’t say that any of my fellow teachers or I would want to work with her. How do I delicately tell her no without redirecting her ire toward me?  —Sorry, I Can’t, I’m Busy Forever

Dear S.I.C.I.B.F.,

If this were your first year with her, I might say give her a chance with a volunteering opportunity. Sometimes people can be vastly different once trust is built and they’ve been given a chance to prove themselves. But if she already has a pattern of behavior of making teachers’ jobs harder, I wouldn’t risk giving her more access to you and your coworkers than she already has.

First, see if you’re even allowed to be one of her references. Most employers ask for references from people who have worked with the candidate in an official capacity. Look over the form. If it’s a lot of workplace-related questions, just tell her, “Thanks for thinking of me for this. It looks like I would have to mark most of these questions as N/A since we haven’t worked together, which I’m afraid wouldn’t look like a strong reference to HR.”

If this doesn’t deter her, fill it out honestly, but also talk to your principal. Ultimately they will either have the final say in making a hire or can talk to HR themselves about stopping her hiring process in its tracks.

Dear WeAreTeachers:
I’m a little over a month into the school year, and since I interviewed with my current school in June, I have had my position and/or classroom changed … get ready for it … THREE TIMES. I accepted a position as a fourth grade ELA/social studies teacher. A week before school started, my principal called and said I’d be teaching second grade, all subjects. And this week, a month into the school year, she had me move classrooms, with a day’s notice, to the other side of the school, away from the rest of my team. Am I allowed to say no more moves?! —UGH in Utah

Dear U.I.U.,

While the teacher shortage this school year has certainly thrown schools nationwide for a loop, I think this many directional changes would give anyone whiplash.

Unfortunately, you can’t opt out of last-minute decisions that affect you. I wouldn’t risk asking your principal for no more surprises. Next semester when the hiring/placement talks begin, you can schedule a chat with her. Tell her how the changes affected you and ask if she anticipates similar things happening next year.

“I totally understand that this year has been unpredictable for hiring and knowing where to place teachers. I know and am grateful that you did your best to avoid them. Even so, the switches and moves I had to make made developing my content-area skills and planning with my team difficult. From your vantage point, do you see a similar thing happening this coming year?”

Don’t forget to listen to your gut too. Our instincts often try to tell us when patterns aren’t good for us. You may not be able to opt out of her decisions, but you can opt out of a school that isn’t considerate about what it asks of its teachers.

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Dear WeAreTeachers:
I teach English III in a small town. Last week, I confronted a student after discovering she lifted several sentences from a sample essay online. She admitted to it, and, per our district policy, I gave her a zero and scheduled a conference with her parent. I’m not surprised that the parent was upset and blamed me for “reacting” so harshly and ruining her child’s athletic career by making her ineligible to play volleyball. But I got the shock of my teaching life when my administrator agreed and told me in the meeting that I shouldn’t have made my essay “Googleable”! I felt so flustered that I just said, “I’ll need to think about that,” but I’ve been simmering with rage ever since. Am I wrong to be this mad? Should I have just let it slide?

Help! I Caught My Principal Having an Affair With a Fellow Teacher