Welcome to our brand new advice column! Over the years we've received a wide range of questions from fellow educators. So we decided to ask some of our writers to respond. Today we're helping a teacher who feels like their coworker isn't doing their fair share and another teacher dealing with a grading dilemma. See what our writers have to say, then share your own advice in the comments!
If you've got a question or dilemma of your own, you can submit it here.
Dear Educator’s Room,
How do I deal with a coworker who is not a team player? Next year, I’ve been assigned a co-teacher known for never attending those extra things everyone is expected to attend because of “other things.” I know her grade team teammates from this year really resented it.
Dear Team Player,
If you have any positive relationship established with this team member, have a chat with them about the expectations the role requires because if no one addresses the elephant in the room, resentment will keep building. They legitimately may not have a clue they are required to do those other duties as assigned, or it could just be extenuating circumstances interfering.
I had a coworker who always came late to our shared morning duty. I discovered that she had to take her small children to daycare, which opened at the same time our duty assignment began, and no one would trade for an afternoon time with her. So, we had an understanding that she would be a few minutes late. The key is to be honest and communicate.
This is a universal issue in all fields. In my case, I will suggest a sign-up for those scheduled events we have and have the requirement that my coworker attend at least one as a chaperone or helper. If something comes up, like a sporting event their child is in, I’ll ask them to trade with someone else and let those in charge know they did so. Animosity and resentment hurt a team very quickly, so it’s best to rectify it if possible.
-Suzy"Sometimes our resentment for colleagues comes from jealousy of the behavior they 'get away with.' This is a natural feeling but ultimately reveals a potential flaw in management, not in our peers." - Ask the Educator's Room Click To Tweet
Dear Team Player,
It can be frustrating to work closely with someone who you feel is not holding themselves to the same professional standards as you do. As you enter your co-teacher experience with this individual, I highly recommend you get comfortable with focusing on what you can control.
The thing that is way more likely to sour this working relationship is your feelings about them missing extra things (i.e. resentment), rather than the fact they are missing them in the first place. Understandably, this is easier said than done.
You can control your communication with this individual, but you cannot control if they attend meetings or duty. I suggest that with any co-teacher relationship, ensure an open line of communication. You will not agree on everything, but you need to present a unified front for the students. In this case, open dialogue about the value of attending these trainings or meetings, but be willing to drop it if they don’t budge.
I understand it can feel like this person can play by different rules, but it is up to your site admin to hold them accountable, not you. Additionally, without them providing you with private information, you have no way of knowing why this person skips the extra things. Maybe they have childcare limitations or care for an elderly family member. Or maybe they have strict work boundaries and aren’t concerned about being a “team player.”
Sometimes our resentment for colleagues comes from jealousy of the behavior they “get away with.” This is a natural feeling but ultimately reveals a potential flaw in management, not in our peers. You and your colleague can be a successful team with empathy and open communication, even if they miss the extra stuff.
Dear Educator’s Room,
We’re getting ready to submit final grades, and I’m trying to figure out what to do about the many student-athletes who turned in late work this semester. Should late points be deducted for athletes who turn in work past the due date due to being gone? Or is there a better way to hold them accountable?
Looking for Accountability
I just read a Twitter thread on the topic of late work deductions, and that thread was hot! People brought out the pitchforks and torches, and the discussion featured support from all sides of the topic. I’ve been in three different districts, yet the expectation for athletes remained the same - get your work done on time. Period. The coaches supported us in deducting points because this absence due to a sporting event was not in the same category as absent due to illness where you had time to complete the work.
I think kiddos sometimes have a mentality of, “I wasn’t there (in class), so it didn’t happen.” I put the responsibility back on the students. I ask, “If you missed a week’s worth of practice, would the coach put you in the game Friday night?” They always answered, “No, ma’am.” I tell my athletes, per coaches’ expectations, to come to see me before they leave that morning or the day before to get the work. In Texas, we have the No Pass, No Play policy, which helps the majority of my athletes keep their grades in check. If you gave them every opportunity to turn this work in on time and told them the work was missing, then you have grounds to deduct the points. It should not come as a surprise to them.
Are these students turning their work in when they return, or are they dragging their feet and using athletics as an excuse for missing assignments?
My first thought is to defer to any school and district policy that specifies how these situations are handled - doing so allows for less confusion and inconsistency. It’s common for policies to say they have the same number of days that they missed to make up the work without a late penalty.
If the school or district does not have a policy, what expectations have you set in your own classroom for turning in work after an absence? Ideally, if you are concerned about holding them accountable, they would be held to the same standards as other students when it comes to turning in work that was due while they were out.
On a more human level, you can always open the door for conversations about these situations with your student-athletes. This may give you more insight into what is competing for their time and explain any additional delays in turning in work. There is a big difference between being empathetic to their overwhelming schedules and allowing them special and outsized privileges over their peers.
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about madison woodward
Madison is a former alternative school teacher now working in the EdTech industry. She remains an advocate for marginalized students and equity in education.
about suzy winter
Middle school Language Arts teacher in the private school sector and loving every moment of it. After 17 years of public school life, it is a welcome change, but I will always advocate and lift up my fellow educators. Our profession, no matter where the classroom, is not for the faint of heart, but for those who teach with all their heart.