Help! Our Staff Holiday Party Is Mandatory and I Refuse to Go

Dear We Are Teachers,

My principal always throws an elaborate holiday party at her house on the Saturday night after we get out from school. I went to it my first year because I felt pressured, and I haven’t been again since. The party was inoffensive, but her house is over an hour away from where I live and I don’t like driving in the dark. She sent the invite before we got out for Thanksgiving break, and when I immediately RSVP’d no, she stopped by my room and said it looks bad that I never go to the holiday party. I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say. Should I tell her I won’t ever go, or just keep making excuses every year? 

—No, thanks (forever)

Dear N.T.F.,

Here’s the thing. Your boss wants you to go. This isn’t some corporation where HR has to turn in their attendance records. They actually want you there. (That’s not to put further pressure on you. I just think this is more crushed enthusiasm than authoritarian flex.)

Feeling uncomfortable for any reason is a valid reason to say no. Not wanting to drive an hour late on a Saturday night during the holidays is extra valid. Say this:

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t honest with you the past few years. I actually like the holiday party, but I don’t feel comfortable driving that far late at night. Maybe in the future we can consider having an additional party option. I’d be happy to organize a happy hour near school!” 

That way you’re communicating that you want to be in on the fun, but not at the cost of a potentially dangerous cross-city trek.   

Dear We Are Teachers,

I have a student teacher this year who has a lot of great qualities but still has a lot to learn—not just in terms of teaching, but workplace etiquette too. I’ve had to redirect him about inappropriate conversations, off-color jokes, and reading my body language when I’m busy, stressed, or not in the mood to joke around. We know there will be an opening next year when a teacher on our team retires, and my student teacher has already talked to our principal and is convinced he is a shoo-in. I, however, have not shared my thoughts with our principal. Unless there’s a huge change between now and hiring season, I can’t recommend him to work at our school. Do I warn my student teacher he won’t be hired so he can start thinking about other schools, or just let the rejection play out?

—It’s a “No” For Me, Dog

Dear I.A.N.F.M.D.,

Your job is not to hire (or not hire) your student teacher, so I think you can leave that part alone.

However, your job as the supervising teacher is to provide frequent and honest feedback to your student teacher so that they know what to work on and how to improve. You’ve said you’ve had to redirect him on some big ways he’s missing the mark, but it doesn’t sound like he thinks those issues have any impact on his hireability.

Student teachers often have weekly or monthly assessments their supervising teachers have to fill out for their program. Make sure your student teacher is getting the same information you’re feeling—that they still have a lot of work to do before they’re an ideal candidate for any school.

Dear We Are Teachers,

My 14-year-old is a freshman at the high school where I teach. Yesterday he showed me a TikTok from another student at our school fashioning a bong from a Sprite bottle during his chemistry class. There’s no weed in the video, though. You can see the teacher—my colleague—in the background. He’s teaching, but in a class of 40 students where it’s difficult to move around the room, this whole thing was filmed without him knowing. Obviously I need to do something, but should I talk to the teacher or the student?

—why are teenagers

Dear W.A.T.,

Has the video been shared? If so, it’s not going away anytime soon and your school needs to be ready for some serious damage control. Send it to an administrator ASAP. Tell your coworker immediately after you send it so they have a heads-up on what’s coming.

The trickier response is if the video hasn’t been shared for some reason.

On one hand, parents ought to know when their kid makes a boneheaded choice. On the other hand, it would be infuriating if this ended up as the teacher’s fault, when it’s really the state’s fault for the kind of funding that results in unmanageable class sizes. Also, something tells me a kid who just thought he was making a dumb TikTok probably doesn’t realize the ramifications of a situation that could easily be interpreted by the right people as having drug paraphernalia within a school zone. (Or maybe he does. I don’t know.)

Thankfully, this issue is beyond your job requirements. Talk in person with an administrator you trust to handle this fairly. Opine that this issue remain about class size, not the teacher (or even student) ineptitude. Then gently place this little dumpster fire on their desk and walk away.

Do you have a burning question? Email us at [email protected].

Dear We Are Teachers,

I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and it has shed a ton of light on certain behaviors and patterns in my life. I’ve been thinking about letting my boss know about my diagnosis so she can better understand why certain things deeply bother me (like my super-loud AC unit) and how she can support me better (like understanding I might need help prioritizing tasks). Do you think this could help more than hurt, or vice versa?

—always doing, hardly done

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