Yesterday a student I don’t even teach rushed up behind me and pushed me. I fell and turned around to see a group of students filming me and laughing. Because the student says it was “just a TikTok dare,” this ninth grader is walking away with zero consequences. My AP said they already learned their lesson about peer pressure! I feel like quitting. Should I? —In a Shove-Hate Relationship
This is one of those stories where people who live in a bubble of well-funded, appropriately staffed schools might read this and think, “This isn’t real. This could never happen.”
Don’t worry. I’m not one of those people.
This situation is not simply a kid making a bad choice that goes unpunished. The student who pushed you knew they wouldn’t face any consequences for it. Your AP’s boss likely told them they can’t issue suspensions because it reflects poorly on the district. And unless you live in Unicornland, your school is likely underfunded, understaffed, and unable to support disciplinary efforts. Though 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 of this incident is helpful in the long run. The problem is that people at the top perpetuate an environment that enables this kind of behavior. I think you need to get the attention of people at the top and start a conversation about how it’s not safe to be a teacher at your school.
If your principal has the same response as your AP, consider your options. I imagine that you want change—not just for your school, but for others like it. To do that, you need to tell your story to a wide audience. Personally, I would risk termination to go to someone in the media. I would also probably file a lawsuit against the district, but keep in mind I have zero loyal feelings for institutions, especially those that shrug when asked to protect their employees.
Not everyone has the resources or support system to make riskier professional moves, though. I totally understand if you can’t afford to put your livelihood at risk by going to the media or filing a lawsuit. I do recommend, at the very least, filing an injury complaint and seeking paid medical leave. If your school won’t do anything when you’re hurt, they need consequences too.
I’ve suddenly realized my new school has offered me nothing it promised in my interview. They promised teacher autonomy, but our whole fifth grade team has to be on the same lesson plan every day. They assured me I’d have a ton of support, but my mentor teacher hasn’t met with me once this year. I’m not even teaching the grade I interviewed for in May! I want to stay at my school—how do I bring this up to my administration without sounding like I’m accusing them of lying? —Pretty (Big) Liars
This seems more like a disorganized “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation at the school rather than intentional lying. It’s possible that the person interviewing you had no idea how curriculum gets rolled out at the school, but it’s also possible that those changes got handed down over the summer. Obviously, the mentor program at your school doesn’t have enough oversight. And while it’s very annoying, it’s not uncommon for teachers to have to navigate the “last-minute position change” boat. A lot can happen over a summer that’s out of administrative control.
First, talk to your mentor teacher. It’s not OK that they’re leaving you in the dust, especially if the school is paying them a stipend. Approach them gently and explain you could use a lot of support this year. “Hey! I know all too well how quickly the year flies, and I realized we haven’t met as teacher and mentor. Are you available to be that person, or should I ask [relevant person] to see who’s available as a mentor?”
As far as your expectation to have autonomy goes, this is definitely a valid reason to decide to leave if you want. But give it until the end of the year to decide. The relationships you form—as well as the little ways you find to put your own spin on what you teach—might change your mind.
Our boys’ bathrooms are regularly “shut down” (i.e., locked by admin) as a consequence for vandalism/vaping. But when there’s no way of knowing which bathrooms are open, sometimes my students search for 15 minutes with no luck. How do I advocate for my students without seeming like I’m complaining about what is probably my administrators’ last resort? —Let’s Get This Potty Started
This is a tricky issue. On one hand, kids who are trashing bathrooms definitely need a consequence. But I don’t know that a group punishment is the right decision in this case—or ever. However, I understand the administrative response too. They can’t just keep allowing it to happen.
What really needs to happen is adequate funding, increased staffing, and a school-wide discipline plan. But since we’ll be waiting on most of that (especially funding) for a while, here’s what I would do in the meantime.
For now, take your kids on a bathroom break midway through class to whatever bathrooms are open, even if you have to walk across the school. That way you can be listening for mayhem, kids get to use the restroom, and no one misses instruction.
Email an administrator about your mid-class break plan. Explain that you’re worried about the school’s liability if your students can’t find an open restroom, and you wanted to be ahead of this issue before parents get involved. Hopefully they will see the absolutely giant administrative headache you saved them and realize they need to have a better plan in place.
Do you have a burning question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m in a large Facebook group for moms in my community. Recently someone posted asking about middle school recommendations, and a woman responded with, “Stay away from Grove. We’re dealing with a science teacher from hell right now.” I’m the science teacher at Grove Elementary, and this is definitely one of my jackhammer parents. Do I just take this one on the chin or call her out? —Fuming in Fullerton