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Conflict in the workplaceAs a teacher, I try very hard to get along with all of my...

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted February 12, 2009 at 1:53 PM via web

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Conflict in the workplace

As a teacher, I try very hard to get along with all of my colleagues. So far, I haven't really alienated any of my peers, but there is one individual who insists on keeping students out of my room who need my class badly -- this fellow teacher believes that his/her class is more important than core subject areas, and as a result, all of the school's worst kids flock to his/her room to "escape" from actual classwork. This behavior has led to a conflict between the other teacher and myself, to the point that the principal has had to become involved. How might I extend an olive branch to this other teacher, and attempt to "bury the hatchet," especially if he/she doesn't want to? Suggestions appreciated.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 12, 2009 at 4:04 PM (Answer #2)

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What are you teaching, a remedial class?  Why doesn't this other teacher agree that these kids need your class?  Is he/she teaching an elective course?

One thing to keep in mind, if the other teacher teaches an elective course, these classes are cut unless there are adequate numbers.  This teacher may be fearing for his/her job and is actively recruiting kids into his/her class regardless of core class needs.

One thing you could do is approach the teacher and explain to him/her that you think it best for some of these kids if they enroll in your class.  I'm sure you both want what's best for the students at your school.  Ask him/her what you two can do to compromise...perhaps the schedule could be adjusted so that the same kids could be enrolled in both your classes?

Good Luck!

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted February 12, 2009 at 4:37 PM (Answer #3)

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Maybe I wasn't quite clear -- this teacher encourages his/her students to come to the elective course that he/she teaches outside their scheduled time. For instance, two of my girls spend an entire period there regularly after lunch when they should be in my language arts class instead (they are both on my roll, yet go to the aforementioned elective class instead, with permission from the teacher of that course -- hence the feud). As a result of their frequent absences from my class, their grades suffer. I don't mind them assisting the other teacher from time to time, but this is becoming a daily occurrence, and the outcome for them is negative, to say the least.

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 12, 2009 at 6:28 PM (Answer #4)

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I don't know if an olive branch would help.  The behavior of this teacher is bizarre and extremely unprofessional; it hints at underlying issues.  Extending an olive branch might just make his or her behavior worse.  I don't know why the prinicpal hasn't resolved the issue in your favor-you are clearly in the "right".  Have you asked the principal to talk to the students going to this other class, and their parents, and laying down the law?  They should be informed that they are going to get an F if they don't come to your class every day.  Another option is to tell these kids to transfer out at the term; if the other teacher wants 'em, let him or her have 'em, but as official students enrolled in the class.  I know that might not be best for them, but it is their choice, and it will save you some drama. There have got to be other ways to resolve the situation without kow-towing to a person whose concepts of professionalism are obviously askew.

And what would you even do to extend an olive branch?  Flattery?  Offer to take them to lunch?  Suck up to them every time you see them?  That is so much effort on your part for potentially sketchy result.  I say be polite, be friendly, and use other means to tweak the situation so that you don't have to deal with it anymore.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 12, 2009 at 8:33 PM (Answer #5)

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Why is your principal allowing students to leave a core course? I'm in a similar situation. I teach a remedial reading class to freshmen. They average reading at the 3rd grade level, and the goal is to get them up as close to grade level as possible so that they will pass the Gateway English II exam, which is required for graduation. We use Jamestown Reading Navigator and have had success with it so far. All of my students from last year passed the Gateway with flying colors; four even scored advanced.

This year, half of my class are band students. The conflict: band meets at the same time as my reading class. The band director came to me and tried to work out a deal to have the kids in my class 2 days and week and in band the other 3. He just knew the principal would back him up.

Au contraire! My reading class is the principal's pet project. He created the class to try to get graduation rates up. He refused to even consider the band director's idea.

So what's up with your principal?

Here's an idea: Call the parents and tell them how concerned you are that these students are falling behind in their work. Don't say a word about that other teacher. Let the parents find out from their kids why they're out of class. If the principal starts getting complaints from parents, he or she will have to do something.

Here's another idea: Do the students check in with you before going to that other teacher? Have you tried saying no to them?

As for the olive branch, I agree with cadena. Be friendly and polite, but don't apologize. That would only be an admission that you were wrong to be concerned.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 13, 2009 at 5:50 AM (Answer #6)

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Are you writing these kids up for skipping?  They ARE skipping even if they have the other teacher's permission to be in his/her class.  If they have to serve detention, etc. for their unexcused absence, maybe this will curb the behavior.

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Jen Sambdman | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted February 13, 2009 at 7:02 AM (Answer #7)

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I agree with Linda-Allen - call the parents about their performance, give them no credit for participation in class and write them up every day they are gone. They are truant from your class as long as you tell them they cannot go or they dont bother to show up at all.

As for extending an olive branch, I have a teacher next door with whom I got off to a rocky start mainly due to our conflicting teaching styles and the fact that my kids - the basic kids - are generally a little on the loud side. It has gotten to the point where we just dont acknowledge each other and maintain a civil rapport...but that's about it. I tried saying 'hi' and being friendly but to no avail. I am not going to waste my time trying to be nice to someone unreceptive and neither should you. As long as you two dont come to blows in the hallway with dry-erase markers I think you should be alright. Some people just dont get along.

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engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted February 13, 2009 at 8:32 AM (Answer #8)

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Thanks for all the helpful advice. I think I may be at a stalemate with this fellow teacher. We'll just agree to disagree, and the kids who keep skipping to go to her class will receive the ordinary consequences -- whatever that might be. Thanks again, ladies and gents.

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bdot | Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 18, 2009 at 7:43 AM (Answer #9)

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Forget "getting along" with peers.  Go to this guy's class, get your students, write them up for excessive tardies, give them the appropriate punishment, and tell this Pied Piper that his behavoir will no longer be tolerated.

This situation demonstrates a disgraceful lack of leadership all over.  These are YOUR students missing YOUR class.  This is unacceptable.  Get your kids and get them back to work.  Every second missed is a second lost forever.

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charcunning | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted March 9, 2009 at 7:16 AM (Answer #10)

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Wow. What an extremely unprofessional teacher! I had the same thing happen--I teach AP English and the Art teacher was keeping my students to help her move desks!! UGH!

You are not alone... :)

Definitely give the kids consequences. Call home, write them up, whatever it is you have to do.

As for the olive branch--forget it. Obviously this teacher does not have the best interest of the students in mind. Certainly be professional towards him/her, but there is no need to apologize.

I'm so glad that you have the support of your principal! Doesn't that feel fantastic!? You are lucky (me too!) because not many people have that! Soon the message will become clear to all teachers that allowing students to 'hang out' when they should be in class is not going to fly with admin. Sounds like your principal will happily provide disciplinary action if needed, too, which is great!

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mcalnan | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted November 2, 2009 at 8:04 PM (Answer #11)

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First step, call the attendance office and have them marked truant. Teachers do not have the authority to excuse absences; only parents do. Second, call the parents or email the parents to let them know of the "attendance" issue and the available consequences- zero credit, in-school suspension, detention, Saturday school. Third, email the counselor regarding the situation so that he/she may be able to negotiate the situation with the other teacher for you. Fourth, email the teacher and cc the parents requesting his support in encouraging all students to be punctual and have good attendance in all their classes. Finally, inform the kids of the aforementioned actions you've taken and that just because they can convince another teacher to cover for them, doesn't mean they should and they will be completely responsible for their choice to skip your class.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 26, 2010 at 1:58 PM (Answer #12)

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I share other editors' doubts about the realistic possibility of finding an olive branch solution, but what you can do is work on the students and parents to bring pressure onto this teacher to change his or her way of thinking. Tough situation, and I am constantly reminded that in spite of our best efforts, we might not be able to live in perfect peace and harmony with everyone!

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