Assist! Principal Put in a Digital camera in My Classroom

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I work with two autistic third graders, and it feels like my principal is out to get me. I’m in a certification program, and my evaluator gave me good reviews. She even signed off that I was successful. However, my principal said I was unsuccessful and not yet a proficient teacher, so she installed a camera in my classroom. She wrote me up because she saw me on camera working on my computer. She said I was not interacting with kids, and my students were unsupervised. I’ve had several instances where my principal is watching me on camera and tells me to do something different. As a result, I feel disrespected and intimidated. Also, to add to this stress, I’m 37 weeks pregnant. How do I get my principal to trust me? —Someone’s Watching Me

Dear S.W.M.,

Big congratulations to you as you welcome your baby into your family! Having this added stress with your principal’s approach sounds heavy. I hope you are prioritizing your health and well-being.

Having a camera in the classroom is a hot topic to debate! There is a difference between getting feedback versus feeling like you are under a microscope, misunderstood, and possibly singled out. And based on what you have shared, it sounds like you may be working in a hostile work environment. When an individual is made to feel violated, uncomfortable, intimidated, or afraid because of the behavior of another person, this is a serious concern. Have you taken any steps to reach out to your union representative or your human resources department to get support?

When you are ready to speak up, here are a few things to think about. Consider requesting a meeting with your principal in order to attempt to build a better relationship. Don’t have a meeting alone! Having a support person at the principal meeting with you is an absolute must. You can reach out to your union, supervisor, colleague, another site leader, or your human resources department. If you do meet with your principal, be prepared to share your intention of wanting to feel valued and understood. Aim to come to a consensus on strengths and areas to grow.

On the flip side, there are some educators who see advantages of having cameras in the classroom. It’s common for schools to have security cameras in hallways, parking lots, and gyms for safety reasons. We all know that school violence and mass shootings in the U.S. have risen greatly. Some believe cameras can help thwart dangerous situations. Many proponents suggest that behavior management and safety is the primary reason for having cameras in classrooms. Some argue that video recordings enable educators to review footage and become more reflective with their instructional practices. Videos can also serve as a springboard for other teachers to improve their planning and instruction. Finally, many leaders are looking to increase teacher accountability, and the use of video can be a part of that goal.

For now, I hope you are able to focus on yourself and your baby. Maybe this pause from work will bring clarity. Exploring new employment options is a good idea if a fresh start feels right.

Dear WeAreTeachers:
I had a very rough summer. My mom passed away right before the start of school. It was a long slow decline of health, and while I miss her deeply, it is a relief that she’s no longer suffering. I am missing all of my district PD this week because of her funeral, and the first day of school is next Monday. I know that I will still be reeling from this experience. I went to my classroom, and I feel shocked and frozen. I haven’t done my usual prep to organize and plan. How can I get through this? —Engulfed by Grief

I’m sorry this happened to you. Much compassion and warmth are coming your way during this challenging time in your life. Teachers are humans with real lives, which includes enduring the loss of loved ones. So many of us can empathize. Me included. Taking life in small moments at a time is the priority right now. Hardships like you are experiencing can trigger a variety of reactions, including feelings of despair, exhaustion, and isolation. Also, many notice disruptions with sleep, appetite, and concentration. Show up for it all the best you can.

You are going through a major time of grief, and we all grieve in different ways. Some people like to stay busy while others choose time off from work. Most of all, be sure to protect some time to heal your broken heart.

As you contemplate how to move forward, here are a few options to explore:

  1. Trust yourself. If you choose to work, open your class, keep things basic, and know you don’t have to have everything all figured out. Ask colleagues for help. Try and take work with a “one day a time” mindset. Focus on getting to know your students and setting up basic routines.
  2. Listen to your body’s wisdom. If thinking about a break makes you take a deep breath and feel relieved, talk to your administrator and human resources team to learn about your bereavement options. Your class will be there waiting when you are ready to return.
  3. Lean on your support systems. Stay connected to your friends and family.
  4. Engage in expressive journal writing. Write about your memories and feelings around your mom. Also, write about hopes and dreams for the future.

Sometimes the death of a loved one can divide our lives into a “before” and “after.” There are some unique issues that come up with the loss of a mother. Motherless daughters can sometimes feel lost and adrift for a period of time. Please know you are not alone, and there are support groups and communities waiting to welcome you.

Dear WeAreTeachers:
My anxiety is so bad I can hardly breathe! I’m absolutely terrified of COVID outbreaks. With the new Delta variant, I’m extremely anxious to go back to school. I worry that parent will pull their kids out of school, and we will have to go virtual again. Virtual teaching killed my joy and made me depressed. And very few students did well during virtual teaching. I put in 125% effort, and so few of the kids participated or engaged. My mental health cannot go through that again.  I love being a teacher, but I can’t talk to blank, silent screens again. How do I move forward? —Skyrocketing Anxiety

Dear S.A.,

I’m grateful you shared your honest feelings. It takes courage to do that. You are not alone with your feelings of anxiety and dread about the upcoming school year. There are mild, occasional anxieties and more excessive, severe anxiety disorders. As you reflect on your level of anxiety, you may want to reach out for some professional help. Sometimes, life feels too hard to handle on your own, and working with a mental health professional can quickly increase the quality of your life.

There will always be uncertainty in life and especially in the life of a teacher. Working at schools during a global pandemic brings up turmoil and distress for educators and families. You aren’t a miracle worker or a superhero. You are a human being with real fears, worries, and concerns. Here are a few ways to cope with the anxiety that arises due to uncertainty. Give them a try and notice how your body reacts and how you feel.

  1. Focus on what’s in your sphere of control rather than ruminating on what’s out of your control.
  2. Allow yourself to feel a full range of emotions. Forcing yourself to be positive and suppressing real feelings you have usually backfires and can increase your anxiety even more.
  3. Leverage the power of the breath. Taking deep, long, slow breaths signals your nervous system to calm down. Conscious breathing tells the body it’s not in danger and to relax. The thing is: deep breathing takes practice! This is a good example of something that’s in your control. Give it a try and notice how your body reacts and how you feel.

As you return to school, there are many things that ARE in your control to help promote safe schools during COVID-19. Talk to your administrator about your site’s safe school plan. Some protocols may include physical distancing, face masks, plans for handling COVID symptoms and exposure, timeframes for group work, and drop off and pick up routines.  It’s critical that you understand the plan and that the information is explicitly communicated to all staff and families.

Finally, please keep self-compassion a priority. Now, more than ever, we all need to be gentle to ourselves. Treat yourself like you would treat a close friend. Turn those kind actions and words inward to yourself.

I co-teach with my team leader, and I feel like I’m in a subordinate role and treated more like an assistant than a teacher. It’s so discouraging. I’m an experienced teacher with nine years of teaching under my belt, and I have strong skills and competence in a wide variety of areas. I’ve had a heart-to-heart conversation about communication, collaboration, and sharing workloads. I was feeling hopeful, but things have gotten worse. When we share plans, I feel like I cannot change a thing, and when I share plans with my partner, she does her own thing or “wings it.” When we are together in the classroom, the team lead takes on the bulk of the teaching responsibility. What advice do you have for co-teaching partners? —I’m a Real Teacher

Dear I.A.R.T.,

It’s not surprising that mutual trust and respect are absolutely key in a co-teaching relationship. Your current reality seems frustrating, distressing, and far from an ideal state. How ironic that your team partner is considered to be a “team lead.” The interactions you describe certainly do not sound, look, or feel like the work of an inspirational, collaborative leader. There are many podcasts with a focus on leadership that may serve to inspire you.

It’s safe to say that all co-teaching arrangements have their own struggles and setbacks. It sounds like you have made great efforts to build better collaboration. Not only will an improved relationship help you both, but it will also help your students too! So, let’s consider some ideas for you to explore.

As you move forward with your attempt to improve communication, be sure to email your partner so that you have written evidence of your efforts to collaborate. This residue of information will be helpful when your administration gets involved to support. If your partner does not reply, try something like: “Team Partner, I’m circling back to make sure that we are on the same page with our planning and division of labor. Our students and families greatly benefit from our strong communication and collaboration. I’d like to take responsibility for teaching two content areas. I’m open the following times for weekly planning. I look forward to dividing our roles and responsibilities so we can leverage each other’s strengths.”

If emails do not jumpstart better communication and collaborative planning, you may need to talk to your administration and ask them to get involved to support. Before talking to site leadership, it’s important to reflect on what you envision as a more ideal state in your co-teaching model. Think about what your hopes are regarding planning, communication, roles and responsibilities, and parent communication to start. Taking time to jot down ideas about your ideal state will help you shape the conversation in a positive, solution-orientated way with your administration.

Most of all, be persistent with addressing the issues with your partner. Your students will be able to feel the tension between you two. Students are so keen on noticing body language, tone, and word choice. If you decide that this arrangement is not for you, maybe it’s time to bring that up to your site leader to see what options exist. Hoping you experience shifts in your partnership that lead to respect, communication, and true collaboration.

Do you have a burning question? Email us at askweareteachers@weareteachers.com.

Dear WeAreTeachers:
I really appreciate the colleagues I work with at my school. There are so many ways we support each other on a daily basis. And even though I express my gratitude, there are times I want to do more.  I love to cook, and I think homemade gifts are special to give and to receive. Recently, I made my homemade food gift, and my colleagues refused. I feel kind of funny saying this, but I’m offended! Is there a reason why homemade food gifts are inappropriate for colleagues?

Comments are closed.