I love a lot of things about my principal. She’s wonderful to our faculty and staff, fabulous with our kids, and always supportive of us … as long as it’s just us. Once that conflict crosses over to involve parents or community members, she instantly caves. Last week we went into a parent meeting agreeing that the parent’s complaint about my end-of-year celebration was baseless, but as soon as she mentioned her relationship with a board member, my principal switched gears and pretended I was in the wrong. I want to talk to her about this, but it doesn’t feel like my place to critique her leadership decisions. What do you recommend? —Vulnerable in Virginia
Ugh. I know we all have our weaknesses. But it’s tough when a school leader’s weakness is such a large part of their job (and a large part of you feeling safe and supported at work).
In your principal’s defense, I know that a school leader’s job is much like a teacher’s: It’s hard to really understand unless you’ve been there. But in your defense, I think she could give you more transparency when she doesn’t follow through the way you expected.
Here’s some other teachers’ advice that offered an interesting perspective:
“I would approach the situation with your principal out of concern for feeling like you weren’t supported. I suggest leaving out the part where you feel it was because of this parent’s connections. Even if true, this is your opinion. Take it from the angle of how it affected you.”
“It’s not easy being an admin, the ‘face’ of the school. We know how demanding and, at times, unreasonable parents can be! I do think that you can traverse this difficult topic with ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements, which will avoid sounding like you’re critiquing her leadership decisions. Instead of ‘Why do you cave to parents?’ try something like ‘I don’t feel supported. …’ Often, when we know better, we do better, so maybe communicating your feelings and concerns will help your principal appreciate your perspective. Good luck!”
“First, you’re not alone in the constant battle for feeling supported and heard by all shareholders. It’s important to remember that your admin may also be feeling the same way in regard to managing staff, parents, and the board, and unfortunately, you had to take the hit this round. I feel like your principal should have acknowledged her swerve, but since she didn’t, I feel like it’s more than appropriate to ask for a private meeting to follow up on that parent meeting.”
“She sounds like someone who is usually supportive, so I think framing your concerns through ‘I’ statements will let her know how you feel and not put her on the defensive. I also think it’s wise to go into this meeting not expecting an apology but hoping for an acknowledgment. Communicating your feelings will allow you to at least release the tension heading into summer, and will let you start next year without holding any residual resentment. ❤️”
Take this advice from these wise teachers as you go to request a debriefing. You’ve got this!
I teach kindergarten, and this year my students that I taught my first year are graduating! I’ll be going to their graduation (and sobbing, obviously), but I want to get them something. What would be an appropriate and not-too-expensive gift? I’ll have 15 total from that class. —Emotional Mama Bird Re Hatchlings
THIS IS SO SWEET.
It’s wise to consider expenses and appropriateness, but also consider this: You will have a new crop of graduates next year. And the year after that. And so on.
So as you’re considering your options, also think about whether this is something you might feel obligated or excited to replicate every year.
My favorite ideas:
- Make a fun picture prop. Get a foam board poster and use an X-acto knife to cut out two holes for faces. Use your projector to trace a cartoon body for you, and a cartoon body of whatever your high school mascot is for the other face. With Velcro numbers for the graduation year, you can reuse this for every graduation! Kids will love taking pictures with you, and it will soon become a rite of passage.
- Get a Polaroid camera and hand out instant selfie mementos. For big waterworks, start taking selfies with your kindergartners and then pair them with a cap-and-gown selfie later!
- Something random but that they might actually appreciate. Flowers are sweet, but honestly a lot of students will be trying to toss them ASAP. Maybe have a bouquet of Tide Pens, with one for each student, along with a note about life’s messes. Or bring an extra-large pizza and tell each student, “You’ll always have a pizza my heart!” as they grab a slice.
For other inexpensive and DIY ideas for graduating seniors, check out our list here!
I hate to admit it, but I think I was unknowingly a part of the “Don’t Smile ’Til December” club. Now that I’m more confident with my behavior management, I want to start next year off on a more positive note with my 5th graders. Instead of doling out my rules, procedures, and first-day activities in a no-nonsense way, I want it to be more fun and do a better job of including the kids. Do you have any recommendations? —Ready to Smile in August
I think so many of us have been there! Trying to find the balance between kind and firm is tough. I’m glad you’ve decided to take steps for a more positive classroom environment. You can have fun and have order at the same time : )
Here are some ways to start the year off strong:
- Collaborate on the class rules. Have a few non-negotiables (respect, safety), but then ask the class to help you build out from there. It can be fun to let one silly, low-stakes rule stay on the list. Things like “No usage of the word ‘phlegm.’” Have students decorate small posters with the rules you decide on. Or download ours!
- Channel Bonkers Betsy. Once you go over a rule or procedure, say, “OK, I’m going to go get my friend Bonkers Betsy to practice the procedure.” (Bonkers Brian also works.) You (as Betsy) then do the procedure comically wrong and ask for feedback. This is super fun and helps reinforce procedures. (P.S. I used this with my 6th through 8th graders. They LOVED admonishing her.)
- Have a few meaningful “get to know you” activities. My favorite? Ask: “If you were a pro athlete or performer, what would be the song you’d choose to be played when you walk out onto the field/court/stage?” Then, play one per day during independent work or while packing up (make sure to preview and select clean versions if necessary!).
Do you have a burning question? Email us at email@example.com.
We’ve had big problems with vandalism and vaping in student bathrooms this past school year. We have two weeks left of school, and our principal announced that next year, students will not be allowed to go to the bathroom during class; only during the five-minute passing period that will now be increased to—are you ready for it?—six minutes. Teachers will be expected to monitor bathrooms, sign students in and out, and unlock and re-lock the bathrooms. The myriad of ways in which this plan will backfire was instantly obvious to every teacher in the room, but I was shocked that no one said anything! Do I talk to my principal or go to someone else? —This Plan is Sh*t