My principal informed us to “cease hiding in our lecture rooms” in the course of the planning intervals.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
At our last faculty meeting, our principal told us to “stop hiding in our rooms” during our planning periods and explained that we should network with each other and connect with students when we’re not teaching. He said this would help create a “lively, social atmosphere”. I am the chair of the math department and I feel responsible for telling the principal that my entire department was angry at his proposal when we met this morning. My colleagues have rightly pointed out that our planning time is our only real time during contract hours to get work done or catch the rest of our already “busy, social” day in our classrooms. Do I tell my principal that his idea was received as offensive and counterproductive, or do I wait for this initiative to crash and burn on its own? — Hard networking or hardly any networking?


Do you know how this new initiative is enforced? A conversation with your principal depends on how serious he is about patrolling for violators. If your principal is reviewing whether teachers are complying, I think you, as the department head, have a duty to let him or her know that that decision was taken by your department as something outside of the nature and needs of being a teacher (OK, much out of touch ). If there’s no known plan on how to pull it off, just keep hiding in your room as usual. This isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) time a school-wide policy has gone up in smoke like dud fireworks.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I am the chair of English at my school. We were at a conference in a hotel last week when I overheard two teachers next door talking loudly about me. I guess the connected door didn’t do much because I could hear every mean word perfectly, from comments about my looks to the way I run the department. my feelings are hurt Is that reason enough to justify confronting these two teachers? – Sticks and Stones

Dear SAS,

First of all, I’m sorry this happened. Overhearing this conversation would hurt anyone’s feelings. You showed a lot of restraint and composure by not tearing down the connecting door at that moment.

Personally, I think they both need a wake-up call (no hotel pun intended). If you’re into school affairs, mean gossip about a colleague that’s loud enough to be heard through a wall doesn’t look good for the school or the district. Lucky for her you were in the room next door and not your caretaker or a well connected parent.

I think you approach them with heart. Say that while the conversation hurt your feelings, you were also surprised that they never gave you negative feedback about your leadership. Be aware and open to the possibility that this could lead to a conversation about how they may have felt unheard or rejected in the past. But hopefully it will also lead to a huge apology from you (and gratitude for not putting the principal on speakerphone from your hotel room).

Dear WeAreTeachers,
One of my fifth graders, Ethan, is constantly irritating the other boys in the class. Ethan makes fun of their interests and clothes, heels at their heels in line, doesn’t contribute to group work, little things like that. As a result, these guys — understandably — don’t include him on hiatus or rush to collaborate with him on projects. Ethan’s mom says I object to Ethan and “enable bullying” because the other boys are “strategically isolating” him. Conversation seems impossible – how do I tell a mother that I understand why the other children don’t like your son? – Question my judgement

Dear QMJ,

This is a very complicated social situation, with multiple perspectives to consider. I have empathy for everyone involved. For you as a teacher who feels overwhelmed. For Ethan, who wishes he had friends at school and may not be aware that his behavior is a contributing factor. For the boys in his class who are regularly exposed to a classmate who makes them feel bad. And for the mother who sees her own child suffer. All of these feelings are valid.

This issue is about friendship, but also about boundaries. It sounds like the whole class could use a refresher. Everyone needs to know how to set a boundary when being harassed by someone and clear direction on what that language actually sounds like (e.g. “stop stepping on my shoe”). Everyone (but especially Ethan) needs to know the appropriate response when someone else sets a boundary.

After all, everyone needs to know the consequences of not respecting someone else’s boundaries—both consequences from you and social consequences. Share all of this with Ethan’s mother and explain that you hope that clear language and expectations of him will help him be socially successful. If he struggles afterwards, you can structure future conversations — with him and with Mom — around a framework you’re all familiar with.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I was honored when my principal said he chose me to teach his son’s 3rd grade this year, but I struggle with his behavior and disrespect on a daily basis. He usually manages to stay on the verge of infractions at the officer level, but broke the camel’s back when he asked our guest speaker inappropriate questions. He said to me, “What are you going to do, send me to my dad?” It feels really awkward bringing up my concerns about the behavior of a child he raised with my boss. Any tips? – Biting the feeding hand

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