I am being punished for being good at instructing!

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I am in my 12th year of teaching third grade. I love my school and have a fabulous team. But I always have the feeling that my strengths are being exploited! My director discovered that I make really cool bulletin boards, so I’m now responsible for all the bulletin boards in the main hall (there are eight). I’m a very strong teacher so now I get all the classroom transfers from students struggling with behavior. I also have a student teacher almost every year. It just feels like every time someone finds out that I’m good at something, I’m saddled 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 consider incompetence

Dear SCI,

Ah, the curse of competence. For me, it always boiled down to this question: “Why not train the less able people or create expectations instead of punishing the able ones?” Thinking about this question over and over again led me to a great resentment and, funnily enough, didn’t do the curse undone.

The good news is that you don’t have to accept this.

The not-so-good news is that it requires setting limits through a conversation with your admin. Setting boundaries can be uncomfortable for anyone, but especially for teachers, who often have the difficult combination of perfectionist and people-friendly traits (“You need me to do what I don’t want to do? Sure! Give me hours of my Spend time and energy to make sure it’s spotless!”).

Before meeting with your administrator, plan what you still want to do as part of your job duties, what you want to do with compensation (either in the form of money or time in the form of an additional planning period, no afternoon shift or other negotiations) and what you are no longer willing to do. Then have a conversation in which you explain your current situation, what you hope to get from this conversation and why.

“Thank you for meeting me today. I love working here and I want to tell you something honestly: I’m blown away. I realize that I don’t have the bandwidth for many of the things I’m committed to, so I’ve given a lot of thought to adapting what I’ve set out to do. Can I give you some ideas I have for rotating, delegating and reallocating some of the roles I currently have?”

Perhaps your admin had no idea what an unfair share you were bearing. But if you don’t get it — or if you respond with an insulting “just gulp it down” comment that everyone, even the do-nothing Kevin, has strengths that bring them to the table that justify your over-commitments — you should maybe think about staying in a school that doesn’t respect borders.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I left my last school because of a horrible Deputy Principal and have now discovered in our back to school email that the same AP was transferred to my new school! He was rude to students and faculty and so condescending to me that I had panic attacks before I even had to meet him. Should I tell my new director I can’t work with him? – Living in my nightmare

Dear LIMN,

I’ve heard this occurs in a number of workplaces. It makes me wince so hard my skin hurts every time.

While all of us can imagine the horror movie scene where you start a new job and see a monster from your past (cue “REEE! REEE! REEE!” of the screeching violin strings), I don’t think that’s a good idea right now for a number of reasons to say anything with your principal.

  1. It could backfire and make you look like you’re hard to work with.
  2. I always think it’s better to let people make up their own minds. Personally, I’m always suspicious of someone who tells me how to feel about someone before I’ve had a chance to really get to know them. The same could apply to your client who feels they have hired a great new AP. People will always show you who they are. Which leads me to my next point:
  3. Maybe your AP went through a miraculous turn of summer! (We support big dreams here.) You won’t know until you give it a chance.
  4. If your vice-principal is in a different subject or grade than yours, chances are you will have very little interaction with them.

In the meantime, please protect yourself. Document any inappropriate behavior. Limit interactions with him to email whenever possible. Do not meet with him in person without another colleague present. But let’s all keep our fingers crossed for the “miraculous turn of summer”.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I started this school year at my absolute lowest point as a pro. I personally have no motivation. I can usually “borrow” energy and positivity from the people around me through ‘osmosis’, but the morale at my school doesn’t seem to be there. Also, my two best teacher friends left last year in the great teacher exodus. Should I just stop now or see if things get better this year? – Solo and So Low

Dear SASL,

It breaks my heart to hear how low the teachers’ morale is this year. I wish I could pick you all up, wrap you in a blanket on my couch and give you a Little Debbie Cosmic Brownie while you either tell me all your troubles or we laugh at Derry Girls instead.

There’s no quick fix lately to the absolute train wreck that is education. But there are some ways to make small improvements to your own experience. However, this depends entirely on your personality and what you find comforting, helpful, or encouraging. Here are some articles I’ve put together that can meet you where you are if you:

Inspired by Rebellion: Teachers are joining ‘the Resistance’ this year – are you in?

Feel Strong When You Exercise: Tips to Make Instructor Workouts Actually Work

Want to discuss it with a professional: 27+ Free Consultation Options for Teachers

Find it helpful to validate your trauma as a shared experience: We Haven’t Addressed Teachers’ COVID Trauma

Want a Distraction: Teachers Sharing the Hobbies They’re Keeping Sane Right Now, the Best Summer Reading Books for Teachers

Need a laugh: 14 funny teachers on TikTok

But if you’ve already reached the point where you feel like nothing can ease your unhappiness, I think it would be wise to explore other options, ideally with the guidance of a therapist. Make sure you have all the information you need about how mid-contract termination could affect you professionally and financially so you can make an informed decision that’s best for you.

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

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