Assist! A pupil pushed me and did not take any motion

Dear WeAreTeachers,
Yesterday a student I don’t even teach rushed in behind me and pushed me. I fell and turned to see a group of students filming me and laughing. Because the student says it was “just a TikTok scale,” this ninth grader walks away with no consequences. My AP said they had already learned their lesson about peer pressure! i feel like stop. Should I? – In a shove hate relationship


This is one of those stories where people living in a bubble of well-funded, adequately staffed schools might read this and think, ‘This isn’t real. That could never happen.”

Do not worry. I’m not one of those people.

This situation is not simply a child making a bad choice that goes unpunished. The student who pushed you knew there would be no consequences for it. Your AP boss has probably told you that you can’t issue suspensions because it reflects badly on the district. And unless you live in unicorn country, chances are your school is underfunded, understaffed, and unable to support disciplinary action. Although the student obviously needs consequences, I think the people who deserve the most blame are at the top.

I don’t think filing a police report on this incident is helpful in the long run. The problem is that the people at the top maintain an environment that allows for this type of behavior. I think you need to get the attention of the people at the top and start a conversation about how not safe it is to be a teacher at your school.

If your principal has the same answer as your AP, consider your options. I can imagine that you want change – not only for your school but also for others. To do that, you need to tell your story to a wide audience. Personally, I would risk being fired to go to someone in the media. I would probably file a lawsuit against the district as well, but keep in mind that I have no loyal feelings for institutions, especially those that shrug their shoulders when asked to protect their employees.

However, not everyone has the resources or support system to take riskier career moves. I totally understand if you can’t afford to risk your livelihood by going to the media or filing a lawsuit. At the very least, I recommend filing an injury lawsuit and requesting paid sick leave. If your school doesn’t do anything when you’re hurt, they need consequences too.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I suddenly realized that my new school didn’t offer me anything they promised in my interview. They promised teacher autonomy, but our entire fifth grade team has to have the same lesson plan every day. They assured me that I would get plenty of support, but my mentor teacher has not met with me once this year. I’m not even teaching the class I applied to in May! I want to stay in my school – how do I bring this up with my administration without sounding like I’m accusing them of lying? – Pretty (big) liars

Dear PBL,

This appears to be more of a disorganized “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation at school than a deliberate lie. It’s possible that the person you interviewed had no idea how the curriculum would be introduced at the school, but it’s also possible that these changes were passed down over the summer. Apparently the mentoring program at your school doesn’t have enough oversight. And while it’s very annoying, it’s not uncommon for instructors to have to steer the boat for “last-minute position changes.” A lot can happen in a summer that escapes administrative control.

Talk to your mentor teacher first. It’s not okay for them to let you down, especially if the school is giving them a scholarship. Approach them gently and explain that you could use a lot of support this year. “Hey! I know all too well how quickly the year is going by and I realized that we didn’t meet as a teacher and mentor. Are you available to be that person or should I ask [relevant person] to see who is available to mentor?”

As far as your expectation of having autonomy goes, it’s definitely a valid reason to choose to leave if you want. But give him until the end of the year to make up his mind. The relationships you form—as well as the little ways you find to add your own flavor to what you teach—could change your mind.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
Our boys’ bathrooms are regularly ‘turned off’ (ie locked down by the administrator) as a result of vandalism/vaping. But if there’s no way of knowing which restrooms are open, my students sometimes search for 15 minutes to no avail. How do I stand up for my students without appearing to complain about my administrators’ likely last resort? – Let’s start with this potty


This is a sensitive issue. On the one hand, kids who trash bathrooms definitely need some consequence. But I don’t know if a group penalty is the right decision in this case – or ever. However, I also understand the administrative answer. You can’t just let it go on.

What really needs to happen is proper funding, more staff, and a school-wide disciplinary plan. But since we’re going to be waiting for most of this (particularly the funding) for a while, here’s what I would do in the meantime.

For the time being, take your children to a toilet break in the middle of class, to all toilets that are open, even if you have to go through school. That way, you can eavesdrop on chaos, kids can go to the bathroom, and nobody misses class.

Email an admin about your mid-class break schedule. Explain that you are concerned about the school’s liability if your students cannot find an open toilet and that you wanted to preempt this problem before parents got involved. Hopefully they see the absolutely huge administrative headache you saved them and realize they must have a better plan.

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Dear WeAreTeachers,
I’m on a large Facebook group for moms in my community. Recently, someone posted asking for middle school recommendations, and one woman replied, “Stay away from Grove. We’re dealing with a science teacher from hell right now.” I’m a science teacher at Grove Elementary, and this is definitely one of my jackhammer parents. Do I just take this by the chin or call her? – Smoking in Fullerton

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