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Professional Development: Handling a Problem Principal

Janelle Cox

Teachers spend the majority of their time in their own little bubble in their classrooms. They are the ones who are completely in charge of their students, and how their day goes.

But sometimes teachers tend to forget that there is an outside world filled with their colleagues and administration. Sure, there are school meetings, professional development opportunities, and parent-teacher conferences that you attend, but the majority of a teacher’s time is spent with their students, not faculty.

It is extremely important for all teachers to use professional development to carry on a good working relationship with their principal. Your principal is your boss and in charge of the entire school, so it is essential to make sure that your relationship is solid.

However, from time to time in your educational career, you will come across a problem principal that just doesn’t get along with you, for whatever reason. This can be problematic on several levels. Here are some helpful tips and warning signs to look for in your principal. If any of these happen to you, then it is important to contact your superintendent.

You Sense Tension from the Principal

If you notice any kind of tension coming from the principal, then you better start documenting every e-mail and conversation that you are having with them. Keep a log of the date and time, because it never hurts to have documentation for the future.

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Professional Development: You Start to Feel Mistreated

If this happens, then the first thing that you need to do is remain calm and work with the principal to set goals and create a plan to give them what they want. Try and stay focused on your goal and make sure that you are polite, but also straightforward about what you want and need as well. If you are not tenured, then you must do what it takes to please your principal, but don’t ever jeopardize your self-worth.

Your Principal Does Not Return Your E-mails

If there are numerous failed attempts to contact your principal, then something is not right and you need to get to the bottom of it. Make an appointment with the school secretary for a meeting with the principal and find out what is going on. Remember to always act in a polite and respectful manner when addressing an authority figure.

The Principal Shows Favoritism

Just as you secretly connect to certain children better than others, so does your principal. The problem begins when it is blatantly obvious that your principal shows favoritism toward your colleagues. If this is the case, just remember that there is nothing that you can do about it. All you really can do is try and be yourself and stay in their good graces.

The Principal is Preventing Your from Preforming Your Duties

If the school administration is preventing you from performing your job, then this is clear sign that you have a problem principal. You must act fast and contact a union representative. There is a good chance that if this has happened to you, then it probably has happened to someone else in the past. As long as you are a good person who has had no trouble in the past and doesn’t usually make complaints, then you should be fine.

The Principal Does NOT Act Professional

Your principal’s job is to exhibit characteristics of professionalism at all times. That means they must dress appropriately and speak appropriately at all times whether they are inside of the classroom or outside of the classroom. The way that they handle themselves reflects upon the school that they run. So, if they are speaking inappropriately to you or making you feel uncomfortable in any way, that is not OK.

The relationship between a principal and teacher can be polarizing at times. But teachers must also recognize the value in building a solid relationship with their principal. Trust is earned over a period of time and teachers must make an effort to earn their principal’s trust. However, if you have any concerns about your principal, or you see any of the warning signs mentioned above, you must take action, because that is not OK.

Your principal should be a mentor, a leader, and he or she should be dependable, professional, prepared, and have a positive attitude. Principals want teachers and students to be successful. Their job is to cultivate a love for learning, and provide teachers and students an environment where they feel safe and comfortable.

Do you have any experiences with a problem principal? Please share your stories with us in the comment section below. Your expertise can be just the thing to help a fellow teacher out.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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