Help! The Teacher Cliques at Work Feel Like High School
After being on a very cliquish fourth grade team last year, I asked to be moved up to fifth grade. This year, not being “in” with my new team is affecting me professionally. The whole team “forgot” to include me in their Halloween plans, so they showed up in a matching costume. I did not. They also “accidentally” used the wrong group text for critical last-minute updates about a field trip, which made me look totally lost and disorganized in front of all our parent chaperones. What do I do? —Just Not Cliqueing
The feeling of not fitting in is a real downer at any age. (Remind me to tell you about a joke I told a group of Fancy Parents at daycare that no one laughed at.) Undoubtedly, not feeling a part of a team would affect anyone personally.
But when cliques start to affect you professionally, that’s a different territory. The field trip mistake cost you trust and respect from parents, and the Halloween mistake made you look like the furthest thing from a team player.
First, talk to your team. Even if it’s difficult, assume good intentions. “I wanted to talk about our communication. I’ve gotten left out on some important updates, and I’m worried it reflects poorly on me as a teacher. Could we do a weekly check-in to make sure we’re all on the same page with upcoming plans?”
If it continues, talk to an administrator and provide documentation if needed. And if they won’t act, I’d look for a new school. You don’t want to be a part of a school where cliques rule with impunity.
I’m a floating reading interventionist at my school, so I teach small groups in other teachers’ classrooms during their planning periods. This arrangement works fine, except for one teacher who is constantly coming back into the room. She chats with students, interjects about what we’re learning, and derails our lesson every time she walks in. How do I give her the boot while being respectful of her space? —Get Out of [Your] Room
This dynamic is definitely tricky, but I don’t see a teacher who is trying to sabotage your teaching or assert her dominance over her space.
In this case, I think what we’re looking at is unclear expectations. Your administration may have not done a great job of laying out guidelines for respect between classroom teachers and floating teachers (or have decided to address them on a case-by-case basis). But the good news is that you can clarify them with her.
“Hey! I’m glad to be sharing a space with you this year. My students clearly love you, and it’s so fun to watch your connection with them. When you leave, though, they tend to have a tough time getting back on track. Obviously I want to make sure you still have access to everything you need in here, but I would love to chat about ways to minimize distractions for my group when you need to come back in. Maybe we can set aside some time at the end of class on Fridays for you to come hang out?”
Most teachers will interject before you even finish the last sentence to apologize and commit to changing behavior.
I teach pre-K and love everything about it … except the feeling of overstimulation at the end of every day. Between all the noise and none of the personal space, I am on sensory overload at the end of every day and have no bandwidth for anything else. Are there things I can do to mitigate the overwhelm? —No Touchy
Just know that every teacher reading your question nodded emphatically in solidarity. Teachers of young children in particular, though, have to deal with another dimension of noise and stimulation from people who are still mastering boundaries.
A few WeAreTeachers readers weighed in with how they protect themselves from the daily 4 o’clock sensory overwhelm:
“I could be imagining it, but I swear my classes are quieter when I have them playing during the day.”
“I think it’s a good practice to set norms and boundaries for yourself with your students. ‘Here’s a good distance to be away from my face when you come ask me a question.’ ‘Here’s how I’d like you to ask a question. I don’t like to be tapped on the shoulder.’ Then they feel empowered to set boundaries, too.”
“Just say no to overhead lights.”
“Don’t overcrowd the walls.”
“Plenty of blank space. This is good for me AND the students.”
“Noise-reducing earbuds have been a lifesaver for me as a teacher with ADHD.”
“First 10 minutes they can finish/do the homework, ask me questions, draw, chat, whatever, as long as it’s calm.”
“Honestly, I tell the kids that I need to regulate my body because I’m starting to get disregulated.”
“And then we breathe and count together so that we can ALL get ourselves grounded and regulated again.”
“Dim your Smartboard.”
And my personal favorite:
“OK, admittedly I am extra crunchy, but I practice grounding every day during my lunch break.”
“Shoes off, stand on the grass, set a timer for 10 minutes. Eyes closed and deep breaths. My team and students gives me so much grief for it but I swear it does wonders!”
BRB. Trying this one immediately.
Do you have a burning question? Email us at [email protected].
I was honored when my principal said he picked me as his son’s 3rd grade teacher this year, but I’m struggling with his behavior and disrespect on a daily basis. He usually manages to toe the line just short of any office-referral-level offenses, but the last straw was when he asked inappropriate questions of our guest speaker. He told me, “What are you going to do, send me to my dad?” It feels really awkward to approach my boss with my concerns about the behavior of a child he raised. Any tips? —Biting the Feeding Hand