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Faculty vs. Administration
Q: Dear Mrs. Callaghan,
I am a teacher at a school where the administrator makes life hell for teachers. We are constantly criticized and belittled. There are old, archaic books. Meetings are used to denigrate us and tell us that we are not doing a good job aand we can be replaced at any time. The discipline code at our school is a joke. I am breaking out in terrible rashes and have what seems to be nightmarish insomnia. I want to continue to teach, but not at this school. How can I apply for another job without this evil and vengeful principal finding out about it? Do I have to use her for a reference?
I am not yet tenured, but will have my certification and a masters within the coming year. I hope that I will not have to give up teaching because of one person's attempts, which have been known to be successful, to destroy other people's lives through humiliation, victimization, intimidation and constant threats of retribution. Please help or the teaching world will lose another young hopeful still hanging on by a thread!!!
A: As a teacher you are evaluated by your principal and to a degree, by the parents of your students. Whether or not you have tenure has very little impact on your situation. What would you do differently if you had tenure? Tenure does not guarantee that you will have a job. If you had tenure and the principal wanted to get rid of you, she would be obligated to tell you about your deficits and help you remediate so that you could be successful. Please don't think that tenure would solve the problem.
Do a little self-evaluation and determine what type of leadership you work best under, what your philosophy on discipline is, how you prefer to receive critical analysis. Some things you can't control and others you can change. Once you have determined your strengths and best working conditions, match it to what your situation currently offers. You may have a very poor match, and it could be time for you to move on and find a better situation.
It would certainly raise a red flag if you apply for a new position but do not give your previous principal as a reference. Be very up front in your cover letter and with your current principal as to why you are leaving (not a good match between demands of local school and personal philosophy on teaching). Be sure to tell the principal all the good things you learned while at her school. While stating all the positive things, you are also giving the principal the information you want relayed in his/her letter of recommendation. Before you apply for a position at another school, make sure you are a good match for the expectations and philosophies of that administration.
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After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.