Dear Principal Hotline,
I have an attention-seeking behavior problem—and it’s not the kids. One of our new teachers comes to my office about once a week to report teacher infractions: This teacher yelled, and he could hear her voice through the wall. Another teacher left her class alone to run to the bathroom. Oh and by the way, did I know so-and-so has been late twice this week?
Any tips on managing a tattletale teacher?
I Don’t Have Time for This
It can be inspiring, and difficult, to work with a bright and energetic new staff member, who, maybe, is still learning that life as a teacher, and human, is not always ideal.
Yes, it’s best if we can manage our classrooms without yelling. Yes, leaving a classroom unattended may be problematic, depending upon the students’ ages and behavior. But sometimes a girl’s gotta pee. In this scenario, it’s probably best to start with a conversation about realistic expectations, tactfully explaining that our coworkers are going to function differently than we may ourselves and policing that behavior is not our job.
Explain that his primary focus should be his students’ success and that he can only control his own behavior. Go on to add that if his colleagues are behaving inappropriately, you will notice, and it will be addressed. Because that’s your job. And you’re actually pretty good at it. Maybe mention that his peers are an asset and tracking their shortcomings will lead to being ostracized.
Express that there’s a threshold, which makes his reporting generally unnecessary. He may just be unsure where that line is. He spent seven years in education classes, during which he was told that he would be a mandated reporter. It sounds like he is showing genuine concern about student safety.
So, what does this conversation actually sound like?
Focus on the positive.
This might sound like, “I’m glad you’re invested in our students’ well-being and our standard of professionalism.” Share something you think the teacher being referenced does well. This shows that you look for positives and expect the same of others.
Discuss realistic expectations.
Make sure to explain why being human needs to matter above all else. “We have to accept that situations can force us to bend the rules.” It’s hard to refute the importance of accepting that people are human.
Talk about alternative solutions.
You might show this teacher how to do things differently. “Perhaps you could offer to keep an eye out when another teacher needs to use the restroom.”
Bring it back to your expectations.
Above all else, make sure the teacher hears you say, “I expect you to manage your classroom, engage your students, and help them learn the best they can.” This is the message that will help a new teacher focus on what matters and know what you think matters.
Overall, you should approach this conversation the same way you would approach it with a student. You want to encourage a degree of minding oneself, without squelching the underlying intention. You don’t want to walk away with your teacher feeling like you do not care how his colleagues behave. You do. But you don’t need him running to you every week asking, “Can you believe what Becky did?”
Keep yourself open to this teacher’s perspective, express yourself as clearly as possible, and remember—you’ve got this.