Help! My Principal Took Away Our Lunchtime

Your principal is hoping she can get “cooperation” from teachers who won’t say no.

Illustration of redistributed time on planner because principal took lunch time

Dear WeAreTeachers:
This is my third year teaching middle school science. At our back-to-school meeting this year, we found out that our planning/conference periods were being taken to be used as rotating tutorial time. That was tough to hear, but at least we had our lunchtime, right? Wrong! Now our lunchtime will be used for students who need further intervention. Our principal justified this by claiming that she knew none of us would be willing to hold tutorials before or after school, so this was her way of making sure kids get what they needed. Can she do this? —Hangry in Hackensack

Dear H.I.H.,

Most states have laws protecting teachers’ lunchtimes, and rightfully so. It’s crucial that you have at the very least a half hour to unwind and recharge.

It sounds like your principal has very little faith in (and a lot of resentment for) her teachers. I worked at a similar school my first two years, and noticed that my principal would often implement a new initiative requiring significant unpaid labor, e.g., tutorials during holiday breaks or on Saturdays, knowing full well that the new teachers (often not yet in unions) would feel pressure to comply while the teachers in unions knew their rights and would stick to their completely reasonable boundaries. It sounds to me like your principal is hoping she can get “cooperation” from teachers who won’t say no.

You have several choices here, but I would honestly be very surprised if a unionized teacher hasn’t already contacted their rep about this. Ask around and see if you can find out. Whether or not you’re in a union, it will give you a better idea of how to make an informed decision.


Finally, do not let yourself be swayed by the idea that “what kids need” is additional time in tutorials. If they already have tutorial time during your conference period, what they need is time to socialize with their friends and have lunch and take a breather. And you do too.

Dear WeAreTeachers:
I have a new partner teacher this year in second grade. It’s her second year and my ninth. We share two classes that switch halfway through the day; I teach language arts and social studies, she teaches math and science. We get along great, except for one thing: She keeps “accidentally” stealing my lesson plans and ideas before I get to use them! I’ll mention in our planning period that I heard of a fun new online resource, and three days later when I roll it out with my students, they say, “Oh, we played this yesterday with Ms. Clark!” Another time I told her about a read-aloud I was excited to use that week (all teachers have designated read-aloud time with our classes). When I went to pull out the book for my class, I couldn’t find it. I asked my students if they’d seen a copy of my book Sulwe, and they said Ms. Clark had read it to them that morning. She said she “forgot to prep” for read-aloud and just grabbed a book from my desk.
I know there’s probably a lot worse things happening in the teacher universe right now, but this feels completely unmanageable and frustrating. I keep finding myself having to scramble at the last minute to readjust plans I’d been relying on. What do I do? —Swiper, No Swiping!

Dear S.N.S.,

It sounds to me that while Ms. Clark may not be intentionally trying to sabotage your teaching, she may be slow to pick up on your social cues that nicking your plans means you can’t use those plans. This is one of those “But I shouldn’t have to tell a grown adult to do ____!”-type frustrations. Sometimes people just need a bit more clarity.

Remember, too, that you’re working with a sweet, new baby teacher. She’s probably overwhelmed, underconfident, and thinking, “I’ll just take a page from my amazing partner teacher’s playbook—she won’t mind!” I think there’s a good chance she just sees this as “sharing” and not as a roadblock for you.

The next time it happens, find a private time to tell her, “Hey, I wanted to tell you about something I’m struggling with. I’ve noticed that a lot of times my plans I tell you about end up getting used before I have a chance to do them with my classes. This puts me in a bind because I have to switch up what I’m doing at the last minute. I want to share plans and ideas with you, and I also want to make sure my activities with my students are fresh and exciting for them. Can we work together on making sure we both have what we need?”

P.S. You can direct her toward a ton of our free elementary resources and printables here!

Dear WeAreTeachers:
A parent reached out to my AP this week asking to shadow their child—an eighth grader—during my class for all of next week. I might understand if this were the parent of a child who struggles with behavior management, but as far as I’ve seen, he’s managing everything just fine. My administrator cc’d me on her reply and said, essentially, “It’s fine by me, but it’s up to his teacher.” Apart from being annoyed that my AP didn’t run this by me first, I can’t help but think it’s very strange that I haven’t been told why she made this request. What would you do? —Suddenly in Charge of Bring Your Mom to School Day

Dear S.I.C.O.B.Y.M.T.S.D.,

Oof. Normally I love a parent visitor, but in times like these, my Spidey senses are tingling. And not in a good way.

What I would do is gently bring up to the AP some implications of this extended visit. Without a reason for their visit, I worry about:

  • The visitor violating other students’ privacy by recording sound, video, or photos of other students.
  • The visitor violating FERPA by sharing information on social media about perceptions of other students’ health or learning.
  • The visitor potentially violating district policy for visitors.

I also think it’s your AP’s responsibility to pivot the email conversation to “On second thought, I would love to hear why you’d like such an extended visit to our campus. Can we meet next week to discuss what you’re hoping to get out of shadowing [STUDENT]?”

And then you can be like, “Why on earth did you give the green light before talking to me, doofus?”

(Just kidding. Do not be like that.)

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Dear WeAreTeachers:
I’m in my 12th year of teaching third grade. I love my school and have a fabulous team. But I keep feeling like my strengths get taken advantage of! My principal discovered I make really cool bulletin boards, so now I’m in charge of all the main hallway bulletin boards (there are eight). I’m a very strong teacher, so now I get all the classroom transfers of students who struggle with behavior. I also have a student teacher almost every year. It just feels like every time someone identifies that I’m good at something, I get loaded down with responsibilities I didn’t ask for. I feel like I’m being punished for being good at teaching. Is this something I just have to accept?—Strongly Considering Incompetence

Help! My Principal Took Away Our Lunchtime