We got an email a few weeks ago from our PTA president explaining an upcoming “Parents’ Night Out” fundraiser idea. How do parents get the night out, you ask? Teachers were encouraged to sign up for shifts to watch kids in their classrooms at the school from 6 to 9 p.m. Apparently not many teachers volunteered because a week later, our principal sent us a lengthy follow-up shaming our faculty for “threatening to ruin a fundraiser that ultimately benefits the school.” Are we being selfish if we stand our ground? —Not Standing for Sitting
This was poor planning on the PTA’s part. And poor planning on their part does not constitute an emergency on your part.
The PTA should have run this plan by several teachers, any of whom could have pointed out that it’s completely inappropriate to ask teachers to work more and for free when they already do so much unpaid labor.
Personally, I wouldn’t feel compelled to respond to a vague, group-shaming email. But if you do decide to speak up, be strategic. Remember to assume positive intent. Your principal is embarrassed that his teachers aren’t on board for a school fundraiser he thinks is great, not trying to trick teachers into a fundraiser he knows is wildly insulting. Try something like this:
“I’m so glad the PTA put all this effort into raising money for the school. For this particular fundraiser though, I wished there had been a better opportunity for teacher feedback in the planning stages. Teachers already invest so much of their time, money, and resources in the children of this school. To be asked to do more—unpaid—while parents get glammed up for dinner and dancing just doesn’t align with how I view myself as a professional. I have some ideas for reframing the teacher participation piece of this fundraiser that I think will get more teachers on board.”
If this doesn’t work, request the standard babysitting rate for the fundraiser. Actually, go ahead and give them a special parent discount of $10/hour. With a standard class size, you’ll be raking in $750 in one night.
I recently moved to a rural school with a very small IT support staff and classroom technology badly in need of updates. Because of how often our technology is down, I do a lot my teaching offline, without devices. I teach AP Statistics, so it’s tedious working only from the board and on worksheets, but it’s not impossible. My big yearly evaluation was overall very positive, but my principal rated me low for incorporating technology. Do I contest this since the issue was out of my control? —I’m a Statistician, Not a Magician
You should talk to your principal. They need to know that you don’t have what you need to be successful according to their metrics. However, I wouldn’t go in expecting a score change. If your principal didn’t know why you weren’t using technology in your lesson and hadn’t been notified that your technology was unreliable, I think the score is fair.
You can say something like, “I wanted to discuss the ‘use of technology’ portion of the evaluation. I would love to use technology more, but I’ve adjusted my teaching strategy this year after seeing the class time I lose trying to troubleshoot devices. Can we talk about ways I can improve my score in this area in the future? Can you point me toward some teachers at our campus I could observe?”
If they’re a good principal, they’ll see your commitment to improving. If they’re a great principal, they’ll recognize a structural weakness that is their job to address, not your job to work around.
In a few weeks, we will have a faculty and staff in-service training on how to respond to active shooters. We’ve been told blank rounds will be fired so we know what gunshots sound like. I’ve lost family members to gun violence and know that this part of the training will be very distressing for me. Should I pretend to be sick that day? —Can We Not?
First, I’m sorry that our training for teachers asks them to listen to gunfire. Sometimes I look around and just don’t understand how we got here.
It’s important for you to be fully trained for emergencies, but it’s just as important for you to protect your mental health. If you think the rest of the training (the part that doesn’t involve listening to blank rounds) is something you can handle without distress, try to be there for that portion and ask for permission to be off campus when the rounds are fired.
But if you think the entire training would be triggering, email your principal asking for other options for learning the same information. Talk to your doctor too—they likely have documentation to excuse you from participating if it comes down to that.
But don’t just call in sick. It’s important to be honest in case this becomes a yearly training (ugh).
Do you have a burning question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I teach our high school’s basketball star player. Earlier in the quarter he submitted a plagiarized essay, an automatic zero in our school’s grading policy. His parents and my AP pressured me to let him redo the essay, which I did, but he never submitted one. I finalized his grades with a zero for the plagiarized essay, but later discovered my AP changed it to an 85. When I asked my AP why, he said, “I changed it because I thought he turned it in and didn’t want to call you about it so close to midnight.” Is it petty revenge or an ethical obligation to report my AP at this point? —Petty Patty and the Personal Foul