Dear We Are Teachers,

My principal and I both got divorced in the last couple of years. We developed a friendship outside of work that, for a while, was wonderfully supportive in a really tough time. Now, I feel like that relationship has veered to be far too personal. She tells me way too much about her dating life, including racy texts she gets sent while at work. The other day, she pulled me into her office to get my take on a teacher at our school that one of her kids—a student here—complained about. Am I being unreasonable, or should she be saying way less? 

—the principle of princi-pal

Dear P.O.P.,

Do you actually want to stop being friends? Or do you want to reinstate your previous (unspoken) friendship boundaries? To me, it sounds like she might not realize that you’re uncomfortable. If she’s cheeky enough to spill the beans on her love life, she probably just thinks you find her oversharing delightful-yet-irreverent.

If this is the case, I think you can actually tell her in a really casual, lighthearted way. The next time she veers into TMI territory, say something like, “Linda, I love you, but I cannot have Principal Linda also be Sexting Linda in my head.” People like that often don’t know the line between playfully making someone uncomfortable and making another person truly uncomfortable.   

If she continues after that, you can have a more serious talk where you define the lines a little better, both professionally and personally. Tell her that you treasure your friendship, but that you don’t feel comfortable discussing [x], or that you would feel more comfortable if you had conversations about [y] outside of school.

Dear We Are Teachers,

I’ve been teaching first grade for 16 years. I joined a new school this year and my team includes a teacher who has been teaching for 19 years. She is a micromanager extraordinaire. If I bring up anything I’m struggling with, she doesn’t just suggest an option, she will follow up again and again to check that I’ve done it. And if her suggestion doesn’t work? It’s because I didn’t do it right and because I haven’t been teaching as long as her (yeah, major eyeroll). Recently, I hit my limit when she told me I forgot to send in my Secret Santa info—she’s the coordinator. I told her I didn’t forget—the deadline was two days away. She said, “Oh, it looked like you weren’t busy, so I assumed you forgot.” I didn’t want to be confrontational so early on a new team, but come on! What is this madness?  

—cool your jets, man

Dear C.Y.J.M.,

This would make me want to drive a cafeteria spork into my skull.

That said, as impossible as it might seem, her behavior is probably coming from a good place. I bet she thinks she’s looking out for you. Not, you know, communicating at every turn that you’re an untrustworthy idiot.

Her behavior is still inappropriate, though. The next time she turns up her Need for Control dial to 11, wait for a private time to approach her (after you’ve cooled down).

“Hey. I wanted to talk to you about something. I think it’s coming from a place of kindness when you share advice or reminders about work stuff. But sometimes I feel like I’m not trusted that I have the skill or ability to do it myself. Do you think you could work on helping me feel more capable?”

If that doesn’t work, consider letting out a loud, primal scream the next time this happens. Make sure there are multiple witnesses around. With some finessing, you may be able to claim emotional stress as worker’s comp and get PTO*.

Dear We Are Teachers,

Our high school’s broadcast class does a gratitude series during the holidays on students’ favorite teachers. They interviewed probably 20 students on their favorite teachers, and in a faculty of 32, I wasn’t mentioned. I know I haven’t been very fun this year, and I know it’s not the end of the world to not be considered a favorite, but I’m feeling really unlovable both in and out of school. Is there something I can do before the holidays to feel better connected to my students?    

—A FRENCH TEACHER finding HERSELF à pied de terre on la rue de la pathétique

Dear Madame,

What I hear is some classic all-or-nothing thinking. Not being a favorite (this one year!) doesn’t relegate you to being a malicious crone.

Here are some other reasons you may not have been featured as a favorite:

  • You’re actually all the students’ favorite, but they assumed everyone else would be choosing you and didn’t want to be redundant.
  • Your school has somehow recruited the coolest teachers on the planet, so not being in the top 20 still puts you at #32 globally.
  • One or more students chose you, but their televised interview was so awkward or had bad words so it was cut in production.

However it happened, not being a favorite doesn’t exclude you from still being a really great teacher. Regardless, I understand it doesn’t feel great, especially if you’re already having a rough year. Here are some ways to boost your spirit and your classroom connections before you leave for break:

  1. Start an attendance bracket on a fun topic. Our writer Amy Hetherington-Coy has your back with everything you need to know.
  2. Consider allowing this testing strategy on your final. Not with the expectation that it’ll win you any cool points, but it’s a good way to reduce anxiety and make students feel seen (while still keeping assessments authentic!).
  3. Give your classroom door a glow-up. Use one of the ideas here or just have each of your students decorate one of these colorful circles and delight in your “confetti door.” 

*Completely unfounded guess. Do not quote me on this.

Do you have a burning question? Email us at [email protected].

Dear We Are Teachers,

My principal always throws an elaborate holiday party at her house on the Saturday night after we get out from school. I went to it my first year because I felt pressured, and I haven’t been again since. The party was inoffensive, but her house is over an hour away from where I live and I don’t like driving in the dark. She sent the invite before we got out for Thanksgiving break, and when I immediately RSVP’d no, she stopped by my room and said it looks bad that I never go to the holiday party. I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say. Should I tell her I won’t ever go, or just keep making excuses every year? 

—No thanks (Forever)