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The Principal’s Pet: A Cautionary Tale


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One of the most painful experiences of my teaching career had nothing to do with difficult students. It didn’t involve being challenged by an angry parent or getting negative feedback on an observation. In fact, my actual teaching skills and my relationships with students and parents were all good during this time, but every morning as I entered the school building, I still got a wrenching feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Through a series of incidents, I had come to realize that some of my colleagues didn’t much care for me. I don’t know the exact number, nor do I know the full extent of their dislike, but it was becoming clear to me that in the minds of my fellow teachers, I had become one of the chosen ones, the principal’s pet. Once that was decided, school became a chilly place for me.

Here’s the story.

Part 1: The Preferential Placement

When Debbie walked into my classroom, I could tell right away she was pissed. She never just popped in for no reason; in fact, I didn’t think she’d ever been in my room before. Debbie taught in a different grade, in another part of the building, and though we’d occasionally sat at the same table in meetings and exchanged cordial smiles in the halls, we didn’t really know each other.

I was pretty sure Debbie’s arrival had something to do with my principal’s recent decision to move me to seventh grade language arts for the following school year. Seventh grade was considered the “challenging” year, the year when students in our state were most heavily assessed in writing, and a spot was opening up for next year. Being asked to fill that slot felt like a vote of confidence for me, and I was pretty pumped up to take it on.

But I’d heard that Debbie felt the job was promised to her. She’d been at the school much longer than me. She had more experience. Unlike me, she grew up in the area, knew a lot of people, had family and connections all over the place. I had just shown up from out of state less than two years before, an outsider, an intruder.

And that’s what Debbie was there to talk about.

“I just have one question for you,” she began, skipping the formality of a hello. “What gives you the right to take a position from someone else who it was promised to for years before you even started teaching here?”

At first I just stood there. Yes, I’d expected Debbie to not be happy about the decision. What surprised me was this new twist on the official story—I had deliberately taken the job from her. This was new territory for me: I didn’t typically get involved in drama. I’d never been in a fistfight as a kid, never “chewed someone out.” I kept to myself, worked my butt off, and tried to steer clear of conflict. But it looked like the drama had come for me.

After a few tense, heart-pounding seconds, I finally spoke. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Mr. Thomas offered it to me. I didn’t ask him for it.”

Debbie snorted. “Oh, so now you’re trying to say you didn’t want it?” She planted her hands on her hips. “I don’t believe that for a second.”

I thought about it. “No, I do want it. Of course I want it. But I never went to him and asked for it.” I held her gaze. “He approached me. I had no idea you were interested in it.”

This was mostly true. When Mr. Thomas had initially asked me about moving, I knew nothing about Debbie’s intentions. I did hear about them later, but still, I didn’t realize she thought I just demanded the job, then got it. Who had that kind of power?

“Well, I was interested,” she said. “But he told me that you’re some kind of published author and that I just need to accept his decision.”

Published author?

I tried to hide my reaction, but in my mind I was thinking, Where the hell did that come from? I had no intentions of telling Debbie that I wasn’t actually published anywhere, but I racked my brain trying to remember what I’d said to give Mr. Thomas that impression. This was 2002, long before I started blogging. I hadn’t published a thing. Mr. Thomas must have misconstrued something I’d said about the graduate writing program I’d been in. I didn’t know. Still, something told me this wasn’t the time to clear that one up.

I wish I could say we reached an understanding that afternoon, that Debbie believed me when I denied any foul play, that she walked away with a clearer picture of how things actually went down. But that didn’t happen. Debbie was firm in her belief that I had set out to take that job from her, and she left just as angry as when she’d arrived.

JealousThe upcoming months, which should have been an exciting time for me as I prepared to move to a new grade and a new classroom, were stained by that incident, and by the small, not-so-subtle ones that followed: The silence when I came close to certain tables in the staff lounge, the overly polite, strained smiles when I said hello to certain people, and the fact that when I said “Debbie can’t stand me” to another teacher friend, she didn’t correct me. Over the summer, Debbie and I attended the same PDs and were sometimes grouped together—our subject area was the same, after all. And the whole time she just kind of glared at me. As someone who already felt like an outsider, I now had confirmation. And maybe it was my imagination, but it felt like Debbie’s acrimony toward me spread to other teachers, like my team leader from the year before, who barely looked at me.

It hurt. More than I even wanted to admit. Intellectually, I could take the advice of my husband and friends who said Screw them, they’re just jealous. But it didn’t feel like jealousy. It felt like they just didn’t like me.

So I did what I’m good at: I hid. I never, ever ate in the teachers’ lounge. Instead, I worked through lunch in my classroom. And I kept my mouth shut. At faculty meetings, when I had something to contribute, I would keep it to myself. I stuck closely to the people I felt the safest with and just avoided contact with everyone else.

Part 2: The Special Committee

Not long after this, Mr. Thomas assembled a special committee—I believe we were called the Leadership Team—a task force to study a set of research-based teaching methods, then share them with the rest of the staff. It was an exciting opportunity; he’d only asked eight teachers to serve in the group, and I was flattered to be chosen. When the committee first formed, he asked us to keep it a secret. Knowing there would be some backlash to the idea of a special committee, he opted to keep things under wraps for a while.

At our first meeting, he told us why he’d chosen us: Unlike many of the teachers at our school, who had a strong negative reaction whenever he proposed a new initiative, he had seen in us a more positive attitude, an interest in getting better and growing. He figured if we piloted these new strategies, then presented them to the staff, we could sort of steer the ship and motivate everyone else to get on board.

Things didn’t quite go as planned. Yes, we dug into the strategies, studied our material carefully, talked about what we were learning in our committee meetings, and it was good. But there was also something else: A spirit of Us versus Them had taken over, a divide between “teachers like us,” who truly wanted to improve, and other staff members, whose consistently negative attitudes merely stood in our way. I don’t recall any discussion of how we could lift them up, how we could empathize with or better understand them. We didn’t reach out to them or include them in our planning. They were not viewed as individual, complex human beings, but as one lump—the negative teachers—and in our private meetings, when we should have been talking about student learning, we spent a whole lot of time trying to figure out what we would do when they gave the inevitable pushback.

Mr. Thomas revealed his Leadership Team at an all-staff PD before the start of the next school year. He explained that we had been selected for our dedication, et cetera, and talked about what we had been working on for the past few months. He named us one by one and asked us to stand for a moment. I’m sure in his mind, he was trying to hold us up as examples or role models, but it was embarrassing. The gazes from my colleagues were not full of admiration; instead, they looked confused and resentful. Awesome.

And the next day, when the time came to present the strategies to our colleagues, they pretty much fell flat. No one was excited. No one was inspired. In fact, when we explained that the first step in rolling out these new strategies would be to have teachers visit each others’ rooms for informal observations, everyone pretty much wigged out. No one wanted someone else in their room to observe. Very few of the strategies ever got implemented in any kind of school-wide way. The negative people got more negative and the elite teachers threw up their hands. See? we said. We knew this would happen.

And the gap widened.

Part 3: The Shiny New Classroom

Us-versus-themAround this same time, our building underwent a major renovation that added a wing of eight new classrooms. Brand-new desks, bright white walls, a fresh start for anyone lucky enough to get one. And guess who got one of those classrooms? Yep, me.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one: Three other members of my teaching team also got them. But one didn’t. And lots of other teachers didn’t either, experienced teachers who had put in much more time than me. From what I was hearing, plenty of people were fuming about who got what. Regardless of the rationale behind the decision, it seemed that once again I was being given the keys to the kingdom.

And so instead of delighting in my new classroom, I felt guilty. I tried to find small faults in it, to casually play up the downside. “It’s kind of a long hike to the office,” I’d say, or “The new rooms have those thermostats that can’t be adjusted.” It didn’t help. Probably made it worse. Once people make up their minds to believe you get special privileges, there’s pretty much nothing you can do to change their minds.

Especially if you think they might be right.

Ten Years Later

I don’t still carry negative emotions from those years. Actually, that’s crap. Writing all this down definitely brings back some pain. I know what was in my heart during that time: I wanted to do a good job for my students and I was willing to work incredibly hard to achieve that. But I also wanted my colleagues to like me. I have always admired people who could barrel through life saying “I don’t care what people think.” But I was never one of them. I care way more than I should.

But my hurt feelings have definitely evolved over time. Instead of seeing myself as some kind of victim in that situation, I see my role in all of it much more clearly: I didn’t value relationships with my colleagues. I didn’t put time, energy, or creativity into building bonds with other teachers. Instead, I poured everything I had into my students, into the quality of my own work, into the pursuit of pedagogical excellence. I didn’t realize how much happier my work life could have been if I had put even a fraction of that time into building better friendships with my peers.

And there’s more: As much as I hated feeling divided from some of the other teachers, I enjoyed the ego boost that came from being among a select few. It felt good to be chosen, to have students tell me I was their favorite, to have my principal say I was one of the good ones. But that feeling is soul candy, a momentary high from the drug of competition, and it’s totally incompatible with something that would be far more sustaining: collegiality.

If I could go back now, I would do things differently. Since I can’t, here’s my advice to principals and teachers to help you avoid similar problems in your school.

Advice for Principals

Make staff relationships a priority. When I interviewed Carrie, a teacher who left the profession after five years, she told me that one big contributor to her desire to leave was how isolated she felt as a new teacher. In some schools, staff “fellowship” is something administrators take an active role in, planning informal get-togethers and celebrating teachers on a personal level. But in other places, where the administration leaves the chips to fall where they may, faculty members just clique up, sticking only to their small circle of friends, and this is a fertile breeding ground for teachers to feel isolated and shunned, even when they’re not. Research has shown a strong link between social relationships and mental and physical health, so if you want happy, productive teachers, take active steps to improve their relationships with each other.

Be transparent in your decision making. It’s tempting to hide unpleasant news until the last minute, but that just makes the final explosion bigger. If Mr. Thomas had notified ALL language arts teachers when the position was going to open up, and if nothing else, at least given a surface-level consideration of all interested parties, his final decision probably still would have made Debbie upset, but it might have at least diffused some of her anger.

Praise privately. Don’t brag about one staff member to another one. This does not motivate people. Instead, praise individuals directly, in private. Write notes of appreciation giving positive, specific compliments about the things your teachers are doing right. ALL of them. Everyone wants to be noticed, and a little goes a long way.

Avoid secret missions. Assembling a team of motivated teachers to pilot a new program or run with a new idea might seem like a good idea, but a secret committee will ultimately be not secret. Then everyone knows you have made an unofficial team of favorites and you end up with a divided faculty. Instead, share your vision with the whole staff, no matter how cranky you think most of them are, and open up the opportunity to anyone who’s interested. You may end up with the same group of people in the end, but at least you gave everyone a chance.

Diversify your focus group. It’s more comfortable to seek feedback from people whose company you enjoy, who share your philosophy about teaching and whose work you respect and admire—people who like you back. But when you really want to know how a new idea is going to fly or what problems are happening under your radar, you need to actively seek out feedback from other teachers as well; teachers with whom you don’t have the best relationship. If the only opportunity they have to give their opinion is when they summon the courage to complain, then they are already at a disadvantage. By inviting their feedback, you’re not only taking a proactive step toward building a better relationship with those teachers, you might also get some really good ideas.

Advice for Teachers

Prioritize relationships with your co-workers. Although it’s important to have good rapport with your principal, I would argue that your job satisfaction relies even more heavily on your relationships with other teachers. Your work life will be a lot more enjoyable if you make a concerted effort to get to know your colleagues. Attend social functions, and not just for a quick pop-in. When the conversation turns away from school and toward personal lives, show an interest. Ask questions. And share of yourself—letting your co-workers get to know you will go a long way toward forming strong bonds.

Show your flaws. It’s hard to get close to someone who seems to have it all together, all the time, so stop shooting for perfection. Be vulnerable. Ask for help. Though it may not be apparent right away, every single teacher in your building can teach you something, and when you ask, you’re recognizing and respecting their experience.

Validate other teachers’ feelings. Understand that even if you are in the same school, every teacher experiences the culture differently. Other teachers’ relationships with students, parents, and administrators are not the same as yours. And what you might perceive as negativity from them probably has a long and complicated history behind it. So listen more than you talk, reflect what you’re hearing, and really try to see things from the other person’s point of view.

Use your powers for good. If a colleague is being treated unfairly, but they don’t have a great relationship with your administrator, go to bat for them. If you feel you are being given preferential treatment, say something. Yes, it would be so much easier in the short run to take your goodies without question, but those goodies will eventually turn sour.

Navigate the teachers’ lounge strategically. Although the fastest antidote to negativity in the staff room is to avoid it completely, doing this only drives the wedge further between you and other teachers. So show up. Show up on a somewhat regular basis. Sit and eat and make an effort and be brave. And if you need to escape to your room occasionally, then do it. But go back. Know that your goal is to keep building small delicate bridges, and go back.


These suggestions won’t make everything perfect, and you’ll still find yourself at odds with some of your colleagues, but if you recognize the value of the relationships you have with them, the time you spend with them day after day and year after year will be richer, happier, and ultimately better for all of you. ♥


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  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jennifer! I haven’t experienced anything quite like your situation, but your advice to teachers for creating a happier work environment is invaluable! Thanks!

    • Thank you for this. Entering my second year, I’m facing the same scenario. I work in a fragmented department, and the relationship between most of my colleagues and administration is tense, at best. Meanwhile, it feels like I’m being championed as an agent of change with more innovative ideas and a fresh perspective. In fact, I made a strong case with another teacher for new math books, much to the disappointment of the others, who were happy with outdated books unaligned to the new common core standards. Now, it looks like I’m going to get my way (in addition to the preps I want), and I feel like I’m going to walk in wanting to collaborate with a team who didn’t like me from the beginning.

    • Thank you, Wendy. Maybe it will help you recognize this kind of situation in the future and help yourself or others avoid it. It took me over 10 years to see it clearly.

  2. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this Jennifer. Not just for the advice, but for your honesty telling your story. It fills in some blanks I was wondering about. As a person who feels things acutely, and consequently avoids the lounge, I’m going to rethink my coping strategies.

    • Come back later and tell me how it goes. Anything but 100% avoidance will take courage, so I’m curious to hear about the steps you take!

  3. Hi, and what an eye opener into the ways of people.
    My story is really simple but I am still, after many many years still perplexed about it.
    I was the Statistics lecturer for a class of catering Science students in HE. One day, in the staff common room the head of that department sat down with me and began a long diatribe about me, the students, how useless I was, what I was doing wrong and on and on..
    When he finished he patted me on the knee and said “Thank you, Howard”.

    • That’s just bizarre, Howard. What happened after that? Did you stay on? What was your relationship like with that person from that point forward?

  4. Jennifer, I plan to share your post in a school leadership course. Your summary points are excellent — may hold those back while others cogitate — and then share. I’ve subscribed to your blog and so appreciate your thoughtful contributions. Warmly, Sarah

    • Sarah, thank you! I am thrilled to hear that you will be sharing this — and I think it’s an excellent idea to withhold the second half until they have a chance to discuss the takeaways themselves. If other insights develop in those discussions, I would love for someone to come over and contribute them in these comments!

  5. Thank you for such an honest depiction of your experience. I especially like how you were able to look back at what you might have done differently. I recently dealt with a principal who played favorites and the atmosphere it created was toxic. She enjoyed having staff compete to be top-dog and thought nothing of the fact that she was destroying staff relationships. I wish principals received more training in human resources and staff management. A good principal can invigorate a school while a poor one can destroy it.

  6. Thank you so much for your post! I am one of those isolated teachers in my school. In my district, I’m on tons of committees because no one else wants to do it, and I think that is a source of some divisiveness. I get along great on those district committees and have even considered once or twice trying to transfer to seek out a more congenial group of colleagues. But, deep down, I know it’s me.
    I get along great with my kids, but with colleagues, not so much, so your story really resonated. After 25 years, I’d decided to focus on my students. My two best friends on the staff retired last year, and I was awfully lonely. I do think that the best teaching occurs when an entire faculty works together. I’m privileged to team-teach next year with a great teacher, and I think this will be a rewarding experience. Your post gives me hope!

    • Jennifer and Tracey:
      Thank you to you both for your stories. I feel the pain acutely. I tried the “building bridges” and peaceful approach… one colleague snarled viciously and told me I wasn’t sincere. She has turned our department inside out and upside down. It got to the point that I had to approach an administrator. Thank goodness I did –I chose the correct administrator and said things in the right way. There are no “fixes” for the situation at the moment. I just continue to be professional and love my kids. Walking through the hallway is like walking on icy nail spikes. Hugs to you both.

      • Ugh, Wendy! I feel for you. It sounds like you’re taking the right approach, though…be professional and love your kids. I hope things get better.

  7. Holly says:

    Reading this hurt. I have been in your shoes, with a variety of principals and teachers over the years. While I do agree that it is important to work on relationships with coworkers, it is important to remember that some would rather blame others for their unhappiness than change anything themselves. I seek out those who are HaPpy!

  8. Natalie says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I had a very similar experience several years ago. Due to low student performance, a teacher was removed from his position and I was put in his place to improve scores (which I did significantly). He resented me, bad mouthed me to students, parents, and colleagues, even went so far as to lie to the principal about me. It made for an incredibly awkward, difficult year. I was fortunate that I had very good relationships with my colleagues and parents and most of his bad mouthing fell on deaf ears. What got me through was knowing that I was doing what was best for my students, and that was what was most important, not matter how I was being treated.

  9. Great story!! I can totally relate!!

  10. Gretchen says:

    Thank you so much, Jennifer, for allowing yourself to be vulnerable in sharing this story. I have been a teacher for 35 years and, yes, there are difficult years that we all go through, for whatever reason. Your advice in this blog is top notch; well thought out, timely and with a very common sense approach. I enjoy sharing it with my colleagues. This is definitely shareable!

  11. Debi Bella says:

    Thanks for sharing about your experience. It’s the same story everywhere. Leaders need to reflect before they implement any decision. Self-reflection is the key for anything we do – for those inside the classroom and out.

  12. Amy Kay Nickerson says:

    Good stuff as usual. My favorite part is about how not everyone experiences the school’s culture in the same way I do. I think that’s true of students in my classes as well. Validating and trying to understand and empathize, etc— not easy to do but so so worth it. Thanks for this!

  13. Jennifer, thank you for sharing your story with us. I am in the opposite position. Admin has routinely given me unjustified, negative evaluations for the past three years. I have been asked to change grade levels (a demotion) and have had to change classrooms three times in the last five years. I will be teaching Kinder this year. Most fortunately, my new room partner is wonderful and willing to help. Any advice on coping with Admin? Thanks.

  14. Diana says:

    You’re right — situations like you described can and will pop up in just about any workplace. People are naturally competitive and want to be recognized for their efforts. Your experience was greatly exacerbated by your principal’s very poor management style. And I agree that spending time to build relationships with your colleagues is well worth it.

  15. Angie says:

    Jennifer, I tripped across your blog several months ago and have enjoyed it so much that I have shared it with my colleagues. Your experience rings so sadly true: I have been on BOTH sides of the equation over the years and liked neither. Your words inspire me to be a bit more vulnerable and intentionally nurture collegiality when I’d prefer to insulate myself from the occasional drama.

  16. Kristi says:

    Jennifer thank you for this wonderful sharing which I will keep in the forefront of my mind as I return to teaching this fall after a 12 year absence because of these kinds of problems. You’ve given me a new perspective to create a new experience for myself.

  17. Hey everyone. Jethro Jones, a middle school principal in Kodiak, Alaska, and host of the Transformative Principal Podcast, has written a thoughtful response to this post on his own blog:

  18. Good food for thought. I’ve worked in just two district in the past 17 years. In the first I felt surrounded by colleagues who were supportive and positive. I didn’t love everyone, of course, but there was an overall level of respect. In the second, I found it hard to break into cliques, which meant that over time I have found a niche in a newer clique. I avoid the staff lounge because of the negativity about students, but that also isolates me even more. I’m going to try to be a more engaged colleague again this year!

    • Hey Wendy! Here’s a strategy that might help: Focus on individual people inside those cliques with whom you can make connections. Same with the staff lounge: It’s so easy to see the whole room as negative, but if you walk in and look at the individuals, you’ll have an easier time finding positive people. Even now when I look back at my own past staff lounges, I can picture lots of positive people in my mind. They just happened to be sitting by–and quietly tolerating–a few Debbie Downers who dominated the conversation. Go to those quiet ones and strike up a conversation.

  19. Julie says:

    thank you for this article/post. I have been in both positions in my 22 years. Most currently the one of outlier. I blame the principal more than the favorite, but I had learned your lesson long ago so it pained me to watch good teachers fall into this trap. One that will take every ounce of comradare they can muster to escape.

  20. “Make staff relationships a priority.” This is great advice. I identify with your situation and loved reading the article. I also got out of the school setting because of the “us versus them” mentality with the teaching staff. I once had a principal tell me after I expressed my concern about another teacher feeling upset, unappreciated and overwhelmed, that “It’s not my job to deal with people’s crap.” Hopefully, they’ll find their way to this post. We spend so much time worrying about how we treat the students, but often forget to spend time working on how we treat each other as professionals and co-workers…as people. As Parker Palmer says, “You teach who you are,” and if you’re upset, feeling unappreciated, and not feeling valued as a part of the team, well, of course your teaching will suffer. Thanks for the work you’re doing!!! It’s much appreciated and much needed!

    “If we want to grow as teachers — we must do something alien to academic culture: we must talk to each other about our inner lives — risky stuff in a profession that fears the personal and seeks safety in the technical, the distant, the abstract.”
    ― Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life

  21. I share a similar story to the one you tell here. The principal was ill for a PD session and I was asked to lead it–on formative and summative assessment. Apparently some felt threatened as they hadn’t heard of these terms before. So the principal told me I shouldn’t talk to other staff! Seriously. Shortly after, the principal came and asked for exemplars of some of my assessment. Later, I walk into a colleague’s classroom after school, and there are two teachers going over my rubrics that they were instructed to learn from. Yikes! I didn’t visit the staff room much either. It was until the last few years at the school that I said, enough of this bullshit, and worked hard to connect both personally and professionally with as many teachers as possible. The teacher and administrator advice here is “bang on.” Amy Edmondson’s work on psychologically safe workplaces is also good.

  22. Wish I had read this the year I started teaching. I’ve never been a principal’s pet but spot on for what I did as well as neglected when I began teaching: trying to be perfect in content for the students and focused all my effort in content. No time for the people I taught with, You don’t get a do over on first impressions. Wishing I had invested more up front in building relationships with colleagues.

    • Hey Susan. It’s never too late to start working on your relationships with colleagues; maybe today?
      Thanks for taking the time to share this.

  23. Jacque Fitzgerald says:

    Oh man, do I wish I had read this 5 years ago when I began teaching. I could have authored this very story as it perfectly describes my experience as a teacher for the first 4 years. For many reasons, I ended up leaving the school in which I was perhaps the “principals favorite”, but more so had not prioritized relationships with colleagues. I’m at a new school now and feel I have done a better job at building bridges, however I find myself again moving very quickly into leadership positions: the PD team, interim Department Chair, and now part of the Literacy Team for next year. I’m eager to pursue my dream of becoming a .5 coach/.5 teacher and eventually a teacher in a master’s program, but I want to maintain better balance in the meantime. Any further advice or anecdotes for how you were able to evolve professionally while not being party to any kind of “divide”?

    • Jacque, I don’t know if I ever actually achieved that. All I know is what I would do differently if given the chance again, and I think I would definitely prioritize socializing with my colleagues more than I did. I would force myself to attend social events and actually talk to people I didn’t know well. This would require me to override my natural introversion, but I would try to look at it like working out–not something I feel like doing at the moment, but afterward I’d be glad I put out the effort.

  24. N Patricia says:

    Reading this brought up a great deal of pain that I have felt the past few years. I am still working on getting over it, but events keep happening that make it very difficult. I have never been the pet, but had felt that I was well liked by the longstanding administration. We have gone t through way too many administrative changes in a five year period. I had always been willing to be a team player and do what was asked of me. Right before the longstanding administrators left, they asked me to change grade levels due to many teachers retiring that year. It was not a negative change, rather a move to balance grade levels with experienced and new teachers. Although it was difficult to leave my team, especially one person who I was good friends with I was excited. I always wanted to teach the younger children and it was a kindergarten position. I loved it! My second year teaching that grade level, my friend from my former team told me that she wanted to move to kindergarten also. I commented that it would be great to be on the same team again, but that I did not think anyone on my team planned on leaving in the near future. The next year, right before school was about to begin, everyone on my team got a call from the vice-principal saying that our numbers were low and that we had to cut one class for just that year. She was hoping that one of us would volunteer. She added that if no one did, she would have to either choose me or another teacher because we were the newest members of the team. I decided to volunteer because the other teacher had young children and mine were older. I figured I could handle the change easier. I agreed to it on the condition that I could return to kindergarten the next year and was assured by both administrators that I could. It was the principal’s first year and she was young and facing a great deal of obstacles, especially rapidly increasing behavioral issues of many students. Many of the students live in high poverty and have experienced trauma. The vice-principal did not especially like me or anyone who stood up to her. I had done so because she would often behave very unprofessionally and. embarrass staff by yelling at them in front of others. I had not been known to do this until then, but she had her favorites and treated everyone else with contempt. When it became time for me to return to kindergarten, I was shocked and deeply hurt when I was told that I would have to stay at the grade level I volunteered to go to for just one year. I was not given any explanation! I was additionally hurt when I found out that my “friend” who had wiggled her way into the favorite category was going to be taking the position. To further the drama, a teaching assistant who was very chummy with the principal would be joining her. Looking back to the conversation with my former teammate, I remembered that she had stated that this was her plan. She had boldly said that she felt that they could bring up the scores of the younger children working as a duo. I remember thinking how insulting that was to myself and many other teachers. The administrators conveniently forgot their promise and the few conversations we had about me being able to get my former position back. I can not express how hurt and betrayed I felt, especially by my “friend”. I always knew she was a shmoozer, but never thought she would go to this level. I would tease her about it. The most difficult part about it is that she has never had a conversation with me about it. I became very angry about this and the declining state of our school that I love so much. I know that all of our students can be successful if given a fair chance. I have said and done some unprofessional things around my peers since then and have been working hard to get back to my old self. I have chosen not to leave yet for many reasons. One of them is that I refuse to go out on a bad note. I have spent too many years working on building up my self-esteem to let people who are out for themselves keep me, the students, their families and most of the staff who I love and consider family from being successful. We now have new administrators again. I was feeling very hopeful until I heard today that a new leadership team was formed without giving everyone who was interested a chance to be involved in it. I bet you can guess who is on that team! As I like to say, I will just laugh so I don’t cry.

  25. John Hughes says:

    As a newer principal, I appreciate your insight and story. So much to ponder and think about. Love your blog- so may articles that I read and reread.

  26. Sally says:

    I taught for just 2 1/2 years. I love teaching but I was one of “them”. I didn’t get support or help, other teachers were cliqued together and purposely didn’t pass on information and at times lied to new teachers faces. I can deal with parents and students but I can’t deal with the playground politics of colleagues and admin.

  27. Eliza Levit says:

    Wow! Your tweet couldn’t have come at a better time as I have been grappling with this for a few weeks. I’m kinda on the opposite side of the issue; my content partner is the pet. My principal does show favoritism with praise, perks and worst of all, eyeful of disdain. I’m also on the “special team” but I’m not a favorite. I’m kinda ok with it because I really don’t need the praise or perks but…I’m feeling like I’m perceived as less than because my peer needs the spotlight. To add, she is always highlighting my creative ideas as hers. Ex: She was ask to lead a PD over some of our collective work but mostly my innovations without credit. I sat though the PD fuming. I’m at a loss for how to proceed because I don’t want discord and believe we are better as a team. Please advise what to do when you are on the other side not getting credit because If I see another tweet of my shared strategies….I’ll do more than silent scream.
    Sadly, the resentment you spoke of is building.

    • This is a tough one. It sounds like you have some legitimate reasons to be resentful. I wish I had an answer for this! I hope other will add their thoughts. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking that there’s not much you can do about the past, but moving forward, be more vocal and assertive when an idea is yours. So instead of sharing a new idea, in private, with your content partner, do it when someone else is present, or CC someone else on an email about it. Then the next time you bring it up, refer to it as “that idea I shared with you.” Just repeated labeling of the idea as yours? I don’t know. I think I’m grasping at straws here, but I feel like you need to start tooting your own horn a little more. I’m not sure that helps.

  28. Tony says:


  29. Arthi says:

    Great stuff Jennifer!! Also applicable for other scenarios. In a previous life, I was a software programmer and very much engaged in pursuing perfection in my code and always wondered why my colleagues felt distant. This article reminded me of the importance of investing time and effort into relationships with the people we see everyday. Thank you!

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