My colleague at all times leaves earlier

Dear WeAreTeachers,
Lately, my partner teacher has asked me to cover when she leaves half an hour early to go to her other job or to watch her class while she takes a call for her other job. Our contract is pretty clear that we cannot be employed elsewhere, which conflicts with our teaching work. Do you want me to tell someone? —Utilization in Rapid City


With teacher salaries as they are, I can’t fault any other teacher for having a second job. But having one to interfere with their current duties is difficult. It seems like the problem here isn’t their job, it’s that you are constantly the one filling in the blanks. And while that’s happening, your students (and theirs) could be missing out.

As far as a contract is concerned, it is an agreement between your partner teacher and your school. But you also have some kind of agreement with each other. As a partner teacher, you should support each other equally. Maybe that looks like class reporting when it happens occasionally, but regularly it’s unfair.

Talk to your partner teacher first. “You know I’m always happy to support you. But it becomes a bit difficult for me to manage two classes on a regular basis. Can we talk about some solutions that will allow me to be a bit more flexible with my classes?”

If she doesn’t change her schedule after this conversation, it’s fair to speak to an admin. You did your due diligence and tried to work it out with her first.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I had my first child six weeks ago. My admin, knowing I was in labor, texted me to ask about my side plans. I texted from my hospital bed that I had already shared my mat holiday plans with my sub and my co-worker and he said, “Yes, but I can’t reach either of them.” I figured out how to share them over my phone can send but I’m still angry about it and want to confront the admin when I come back. What can I say? —Mama Bear with a level 3 rift

Dear MBWL3.T.,

In my reality show fantasy, I’d love to hook up your admin to one of those pain simulator machines, blast him to contraction levels for a few hours, and then text him to do a task that I would be perfectly capable of doing myself. That would be the only fair thing in my opinion.

While I’m (obviously) angry at you, I’m not sure it’s worth discussing at this point. Saying “hey, you did a really stupid thing three months ago” would be right and deserved, but I’m not sure it would produce the heartfelt apology you’re looking for. Also remember that the first day you return to work is often a very emotional time for most new parents. If you want to have this conversation, you have every right to do so. But maybe stay tuned until you’re settled into your new teacher-mom role.

However, I could call your district’s human resources department and say, “I was wrongfully asked to work on my maternity leave while I was in labor. You may wish to discuss this policy with district staff. If this happens to anyone else, they have every right to take legal action.”

I can bet a strongly worded reminder will get sent out to all admins in less time than it takes to breathe through a contraction.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
At our extra-occupational day in January, our principal had us take a personality test. It was rad enough to share with the rest of the faculty, but now we’re being asked to include it in our email signature. Obviously I’m not a fan of this activity at all, but it seems an invasion of privacy to attach it to all of our emails. Should I speak to my principal about this? —INFU

Dear INFU,

At some point in a teacher’s career (I guess sooner rather than later) they are faced with an odd or bad school initiative. I have a three-step process, which I talk about in more detail here, to decide whether you want to just go with the flow or provide feedback to your admin.

  1. Think about what’s at stake. What are you risking when you trade? What are you risking by inaction?
  2. List all your options and their possible consequences. Making a list can help you spot other slightly messy options that you haven’t considered. Out of your head: Use a personality type for your email signature that, oddly enough, is obviously not you.
  3. Make a decision based on your needs, the needs of your students (not applicable in this case), and the consequences you are willing to accept. At my first school, my principal was a hoot. As a person who avoids screaming, I often just went with the flow because the consequences (spontaneous combustion) were not worth it to me. However, with other more rational principals, I felt more comfortable voicing my opinions.

Hopefully, this process will bring you to a decision that feels right (or someone has talked your principal out of that weird idea in the meantime).


Kelly Treleaven

Editor at WeAreTeachers


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Dear WeAreTeachers,
I love and believe in giving back. But it seems like every other day at my school we are asked to pay $5 for a jeans passport, buy refreshments at the dance, pay fees to join the PTO (my principal wants 100% teacher participation) and a gift donate card to one of our families in need, etc. I know I sound like Scrooge, but when I’m only making $32,000 a year, these things add up! Will it reflect badly on me if I unsubscribe? – Scrooge in room 201

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