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Career Questions: When a Colleague Is in Trouble

Q:  I teach second grade in a large elementary school.  In my wing there are six sections of second grade and six sections of third. 

A group of us has become concerned about the behavior of one of our colleagues.  You can hear her screaming at the kids, berating them, and being sarcastic.  There is always a student standing outside in the hall for some infraction.  We are concerned for the kids, but we are also concerned for our colleague.  She has never been the warm and fuzzy type, but this behavior is beyond what she was before. 

A friend of hers on staff took it upon herself to talk to her.  As a result, the teacher in question now just closes her door, but you can still hear her yelling at the kids.  I think a group of us should talk to the principal, but I hate to criticize a colleague in front of administration.  What do you suggest?

A:  While your desire to protect is colleague is understandable, your professional obligations to the welfare of students must take precedence. 

Schoolhouse  Your colleague already knows that there is concern among other teachers about how she is managing her classroom.  I suggest that you and another colleague talk to your principal.  There is no need to go in a large group.  Stick to the facts – what you have seen and heard.  It is the principal’s responsibility after you have brought it to her attention to investigate the matter.  Of key importance is that your colleague’s behavior has changed, and that may signal personal issues that need to be addressed.  The time to intervene is now, before things get worse.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.