In your typical public school in the U.S, it is rare to find yourself teaching a colleague’s child, and even more uncommon to be teaching the child of your boss. But anyone that has taught in the international school world knows that you’re unlikely to go a year without having several students of teachers in your building. After all, one of the standard and most essential benefits in every international teacher’s contract is tuition exemption for 2 or more children.
Where do the principal’s children go? To a teacher stateside, it might seem like a conflict of interest to have the person in charge of observation and evaluation of teachers also be a parent of a student. Imagine that the same person that is in charge of rating your flipped classroom on a scale of 1-5 is also the mother or father of a child that has to wrestle with it for 180 evenings of homework. In the international world, however, the principal’s children go to the principal’s school, just like teachers’ children go to teachers’ schools.
In elementary, one teacher must take on the oft-feared responsibility of being the principal’s child’s homeroom teacher every year. This responsibility fell on my shoulders for the first time last year. Thank goodness the kid was a freaking saint (once I get the typical principal’s son, I’ll write that article), and my principal and his wife were by far some of the most supportive parents I’ve ever had the pleasure of serving.
Let me share some tips on how to “survive” this unique experience, with the word “survive” meant to be tongue-in-cheek. In all actuality, it might be just as frightening for a principal to be exposed as a bad parent as it is for a teacher to be exposed as a bad teacher.
- Be yourself. Don’t take on a separate persona as your principal’s teacher as you do at faculty meetings or as you do at staff parties. Be genuine, be honest, and keep your integrity. No principal trusts a double agent.
- Stick with the program. Just because your principal likes certain things in teaching doesn’t mean you have to scrap everything that has worked for you in the past and start anew. My principal was very much into classic literature (former high school English teacher), but I didn’t go shoving Shakespeare down students’ throats to try to win his approval.
- Follow School Policies. While the former two tips fall under the category of being an authentic person, it isn’t a good idea to ignore the very policies that your principal likely had a hand in creating for the sake of authenticity. Last year our school’s SLT decided on reducing e-mails for teacher-parent communication, so I reduced my e-mail output for all parents, including to my principal. It wasn’t because I feared getting in trouble under his scrutiny as much as that I try to respect school policies.
- Realize that People are People. You are likely to hear a personal or even embarrassing story about your principal straight out of the mouth of his or her child. Just realize that even your boss is human and that it is almost certain that your principal’s little child spy has told him stories about you that are just as unflattering. Keep things confidential that are said in trust between you and your principal’s child.
- Never Slam on Your School. This should be obvious, but I’m including it anyway. Your principal has likely invested a lot of time and personal capital into the creation of what your school is today. My principal was actually the founding principal of my school, which makes my school much like another child in his family. Whenever you feel stressed or disappointed with how your school is operating, don’t share it with your kids. It just isn’t the right venue, principal’s child spy present or not.
- Seize the Moment. Rather than worrying about the extra attention that you might get from your principal because of his or her role as a parent in your classroom, think of it as an opportunity. The first thing I said to my principal when I found out that his son was in my class was that I would always be on his side, because no matter what I would also always be on his son’s side. Use your opportunity to learn about the school’s history and ups and downs straight from the mouth and perspective of your principal’s child. And, ultimately, understand that doing a good job means doing a favor for a person that is really in a position to make a difference as you move forward in your teaching career.
- Don’t Write a Blog Post About it. If you’re smart, you’ll avoid writing any blog posts about teaching your principal’s son until after you have completed your contract with your school. Thank goodness nobody ever reads these things.
If you haven’t already, please follow me on Twitter @MrZachG and check out @SGroshell’s TPT.