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Book:  Dealing with Difficult Teachers

Author:  Todd Whitaker

Purchase:  Print | eBook

Citation:  Whitaker, T. (2015). Dealing with difficult teachers. New York, NY: Routledge.

Key Takeaways & Big Ideas:

There is nothing more damaging than a negative teacher/leader; those who constantly complain can have a crippling effect on the school. 

The definition of a “Superstar” teachers is the following: They are the students’ favorite teachers, they are respected by all faculty, and they could not be replaced. 

You should never argue, use sarcasm, or raise your voice at a student or  teacher. If you argue with a difficult teacher or student it probably won’t go well since they probably already have more skill at arguing than you do.

Consider sending out a “Friday Focus” email to your staff.  This newsletter could include logistics, articles/beliefs, good things from the school/class visits, as well as a means for keeping the teachers informed (revisit expectations).

Allowing mediocre teachers to feel comfortable gives them permission to be mediocre. 

Principal must tell bad teachers how they are coming across and being perceived.  Use the line, “I am telling you think because I would want to know.”

If I as principal feel uncomfortable addressing a negative or underperforming teacher, how doe others feel?

Some tips on faculty meeting: Everyone should sit together at meetings.  It may make sense to have an administrator near the most difficult staff.  Also, consider always using food and/or snacks in your meetings. 

If a teacher yells at a student consider using this phrase:  “Are you ok? The reason I am asking is because I heard you yelling at the students."

When you are preparing to have a difficult conversation with a teacher,, approach them when they are off guard instead of giving them time to plan and react.  This means that you don’t need to set up a formal meeting. Instead, go to them on their turn and present your concern. 

Never address the inappropriate actions of one to the entire group. 

You cannot allow teachers to use, “but, in my personal life!” as an excuse.  We don’t allow this by our students - so why should we allow our teachers to use this excuse?

When you deal with poor teachers, always present like the teacher is telling the truth.  Do not incriminate the teacher...instead ask, “Can you tell me a little bit about…?”

Must always look to reduce the power of negative teacher-leaders without losing the credibility of your staff; Negative leaders will almost always instinctively disagree with a new idea. 

If poor staff leave for the day early – LET THEM GO! Don’t want them there anyways and that is probably not worth the battle.  If poor staff are breaking rules and other good teachers are affected by it deal with it. If poor staff are not affecting others, don’t worry about it.

Optional staff meetings with poor staff members can work to your favor.  For example, if they choose not to show up they lose that power yet they will be held accountable to implement whatever they missed. 

If a school loses a negative leader and gains a superstar, the gains can be immediate and dramatic.

Ineffective leadership is, without question, the primary cause of the emergence of difficult teachers.

Your weakest employees are least likely to leave on their own because they don’t have other options.

Be cautious when giving written praise to someone you want to dismiss – consider using only verbal praise.

Use this as a rule of thumb: Teachers must initiate contact with parents before sending them to the principal (unless the event is dramatic).

If a teacher realizes that you are aware of an inappropriate behavior, you must have dialogue regarding the behavior.  If they don’t know you saw it, you may have the option not to address the behavior. 

By avoiding addressing a tough staff member, you are actually reinforcing them.

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