I’ve been hearing a lot lately about power greedy principals. The complaints range from humiliating teachers in front of peers to threatening a grade level change because a teacher has refused to participate in a particular professional activity outside of contract hours. Part of the problem may be because the districts are putting too much demand on principals, but I don’t accept that as an excuse for ignoring ethics. Neither should you! Teachers have a high pressure profession and when their principal is unsupportive, it adds to the stress of the job. I know many teachers who have sought professional help to deal with the stress of their principal/teacher relationship. Many are on anti-depressants to help them deal with the stress this relationship places on them. Medication dependency is not what we want for the people guiding our students. There are many decent and professional minded principals. I’ve worked for administrators who were fair and have inspired me to be a better teacher, made it easy to wake up each work day, and who embodied workplace integrity. So, what can you do if you aren’t that lucky?
Here are some strategies for dealing with a BULLY principal:
- Collect data just like you do for your students. If a principal tells you that you have to work the valentine’s dance or they will make you do cafeteria duty all year, write it down. If they are telling your peers that they should take you shopping because they don’t like the way you dress, write it down. Make sure you put the date and time on the data. If you get an email saying you have to stay late (past your contract time) to attend a meeting, save and print that email. Keep copies of everything in a collected file.
- Join your union, if you haven’t already. They can answer all of your questions about your contract. I’ve never been one for following the contract precisely when I choose to use after hours time for work. I work long hours and take work home with me regularly. What teacher doesn’t? But there is a big difference between you choosing to stay late and a dictatorial principal telling you that you have to do it.
- Talk to your principal. Give them a chance. Ask for a meeting, tell them what you disagree with and give them the opportunity to correct it. Maybe they are under their own pressure from above and are not aware of the effects of their actions.
- EMAIL is your best friend when facing major administrator/teacher issues. This will preserve everything in writing, preventing denial as a defense.
- If you have major problems, for example your principal has placed multiple behavior problems in your class with the intent of making your work more difficult, then you have to get direction from your union, school board, or superintendent. You are a professional. You know when unfair practices are taking place. It is unfair to you and stakeholders that a principal would encourage a classroom environment that is disruptive. I’m aware of many teachers getting physically harmed or threatened on a daily basis with no support from administration. This is unacceptable!
- Take your personal time when you know you need it. Yes, for teachers it is not easy to take time off because of the planning necessary for a substitute. Invest time and materials in a “Sub Tub” at the beginning of the year. There are plenty of premade sub plans on-line to help you with this if you can’t make it yourself. If you find that you are on edge because of your oppressive administration, take a mini vacation to collect you thoughts.
- Your health is number 1! If you are so stressed out over a bully principal that it is damaging your health, seek a new position or find a different profession. It is not worth losing your health when there is another position somewhere with a happy well-adjusted administrator who would love to have you on their team.