When to Report a Teacher Colleague to School Admin—And When NOT To

There’s a bro code in teaching, but sometimes you have to break it for the sake of your kids.

When to Report a Teacher Colleague

No matter how cool your administration may be, there’s a definite “bro code” in teaching. You don’t report a teacher colleague. Snitches get stitches … or at least uninvited to Margarita Friday. Most of the time, I’ve found it’s best to stay in my own lane and not worry about what my colleagues are doing, no matter how eager the kids are to tell me all about it. There are a few cases, however, when it’s a moral imperative to report a teacher colleague. Here’s a little PD on the Official Teaching Bro Code according to Captain Awesome:

Mind your own business if your colleague isn’t doing his or her job.

If the math teacher is 20 minutes late every morning and you have to keep an eye on her kids, then suck it up, buttercup. The administration will figure it out sooner or later. If the kids come to you in May and say that their English teacher hasn’t passed out any graded work since October, pat them on the head and smile and tell them to do their warm-up activity. These things aren’t your business. They’re annoying. They may require you to spend your time doing a colleague’s job. But anyone in any job has annoying colleagues, and that’s just something you have to live with.

Tell an administrator if your colleague makes it impossible for you to do your job.

There was a teacher at my school for a while who regularly undermined other teachers in front of their students. He came into a classroom full of kids once and yelled at me—literally yelled—about an email I hadn’t responded to yet. If you work with a teacher who causes drama in front of the students or who talks about you to them, that’s worth breaking the Bro Code.

Mind your own business if a colleague isn’t following school policy.

If your co-teacher doesn’t enforce the cell phone policy, oh well. If the art teacher dresses like a stripper, then do what the rest of us do and talk about her behind her back. No report to HR necessary.

Tell an administrator if your colleague is breaking the law.

Does this seem obvious? Maybe. But it can be well-intentioned, like the teacher who always lets the girls go in front of the lunch line. Nice? Sure. Gentlemanly? Absolutely. Illegal? Completely. (What? You weren’t paying attention to the civil rights video they showed during preplanning?)

Even in a case where your coworker is doing something of dubious legality, I’d try talking to them personally at least once or twice before you take it to administration. Perhaps the teacher who continually proselytizes to non-Christian students and invites them to his church just needs a fresh perspective on why he should stop doing that right away.

Mind your own business if you think a colleague is bad at teaching.

The social studies teacher makes them take notes all day? They’ll love your awesomely engaging class even more! The chorus teacher is doing a concert composed entirely of gangsta rap? Not your business!

Tell an administrator if your coworker is doing something that could hurt the kids.

If you work with a para-professional who makes homophobic jokes in the classroom, that’s worth reporting, because the gay kids in that class no longer have a safe place to learn. If a teacher makes comments about a student’s weight, or is over-the-top punitive toward the kids, or requires things from them that will be a significant hardship on their families (i.e. “Bring in a poster board, four cans of Play-Doh, and $12 tomorrow” in a Title I school), and if this colleague doesn’t respond when you point out the problem, it’s probably time to go nuclear.

This is all assuming, of course, that your administration is composed of sane and rational individuals. Sometimes, that’s not the case, and you have to just use your own judgment and hope for the best. I have the best administration in the world, and I think I’ve ratted out a colleague maybe once or twice. I loathe conflict and would much prefer just to roll my eyes and carry on with my day when problems arise.

My ground rule is to report a teacher colleague only when I’ve tried to address the issue with the person involved, and when I feel like it’s the best way to protect my kids and their education. And even then, I can sometimes get the kids to do it for me … “I don’t talk about other teachers with students, but if you have a problem with something Mr. Davis did, here’s a form you can fill out to report it anonymously to administration.” I’ve had great success with that one, and it doesn’t even jeopardize my participation in Margarita Friday!

Captain Awesome

Posted by Captain Awesome

Captain Awesome teaches seventh grade English at an urban charter school for refugee and immigrant kids. She is a big fan of books, social justice, holiday-flavored coffee creamers, righteous indignation, and Friday Night Lights.

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