I love my job, I love my students, and despite the title of the article I even enjoy my colleagues. But sometimes we have to poke fun at ourselves, so I came up with my favourite types of colleagues that get me ranting when I get home from work.
Here are 9 crappy teacher colleagues and my super helpful guide for how to deal with them in your school:
1. The Out-of-Touch Technophobe
Famous Quotes: “Kids learn better with pen and paper”
The only thing worse than teachers unwilling to give technology a shot in their classrooms are teachers who continue to pretend that it’s not already dominating the world. This guy typically use overheads because he’d otherwise waste 15 minutes trying to figure out how to connect to a digital projector – a task the numpty never bothered to learn. He banded together with others and petitioned for years to keep the blackboards, and even now he’s still in denial. He still keeps 3 sticks of chalk in a drawer somewhere. He’s blind to the benefits of technology, and you’d be hard pressed to change his mind. He has a Facebook account put together by the family and although he’s been duped into a perpetual $100/month phone contract, he hasn’t a clue how to use any of the data features of his iPhone 7.
Your safest bet is to avoid arguing with these dudes unless you have any type of authority. He knows better, spending the better half of a decade congregating with like-minded pessimistic oafs, tightly clutching onto the idea that there’s nothing better than the ways of ol’. Be warned – if you are the one to get these individuals to make a change for the better, you will forever be their 24-hour technical support. Worse – when they blunder the whole thing up by accidentally turning their WiFi adaptor off, it’s going to be your fault.
2. The Stubborn Experienced
Famous Quotes: “I’ve been teaching this subject for a very long time, and (insert ignorant assertion here)”
The idea that a more experienced teacher is inherently a better teacher is an outdated myth perpetuated by older teachers who refused to up-skill along the way. These teachers are the ones who lag the current program by 5-10 years, resisting change in content, trends and student attitudes. He still thinks the 1940 Tacoma Narrows bridge was destroyed by standing waves, that there’s no gravity in space and that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Every addition to a learning program is ignored – he’ll mark assessments how he sees fit. He won’t bother explaining why, because he’s the superior teacher and you’re supposed to be a freakin’ mind reader. These guys don’t discuss – they tell.
It’s really hard to work with these folks. I mean, you want their experience, and you really should be listening to their ideas. As soon as there is a disagreement, or conflict, your voice is worthless. Don’t argue – it’ll make things worse. You’ll need to weave your knowledge in via a colleague who has either the authority or experience to make it stick. Importantly, don’t get discouraged by these naive turkeys. Remember that if they’re not willing to listen, reflect or discuss, then their years served is the only thing they have going for them.
3. The Test Teacher
Famous Quotes: “Well this wasn’t in last year’s test so I didn’t teach it”
These guys get me down so much. They read each content statement and produce (google) a worksheet that suits. They know that what they do is frowned upon so they don’t poke their heads above ground unless they need to. This typically happens close to test time. She’s the one who’s always pushing for a draft copy of the test three weeks in advance. When she gets a copy of it, she never contributes constructively, instead insisting that high-order questions get taken out. Then, when she loses that battle, she’ll go covert with the test revision, and you can expect some pretty specific teaching points in the remaining lessons. The activities are uninteresting, mostly memorisation tasks and standard worksheets. The students respond accordingly, shrugging their shoulders when asked about the subject – “Yeah it’s fine I guess” is the biggest compliment such an uninspiring teacher might receive.
It might be hard to believe but these teachers are actually pretty harmless in the short term, and you shouldn’t be concerning yourself with their dodgy and lazy antics to any real degree. You just need to hope that your leaders become aware of it in time and the culture changes within the department. Keep doing your job with enthusiasm, innovation and charisma because that’s what the students want to see more than anything else in their classroom.
4. The Ungrateful Leech
Famous Quotes: “My kids hated that worksheet you made” or “Where’s the answer key?”
These hacks rock up 5 minutes before the start of their class and lurk around the photocopier, like an opportunistic vulture. You run off something you spent your entire weekend designing, and she watches it pop out of the photocopier tray, pick it up and say “Hey can I use this?”. “Sure” you say, because you’re not a scrooge. But then you realise it’s not as simple as that. She runs off 30 copies without anything more than a glance and hands it to her students so they can do it together. You later find that your hard work is criticised for not fitting her class’s criteria, perhaps a typo or two, or maybe a question that’s a bit ambiguous. She won’t offer to fix it for you, she just want you to know she’s disappointed, and Jane’s worksheets are so much better. These teachers typically contribute no positivity, lack innovation (unless there’s a step-by-step guide in front of them) and exhibit many of the same traits as the Insecure Buzz-kill [see below].
We should never discourage the sharing of our work – we want students to have the best of the best. However, these nutters are the exception, rife within schools and promoting a bland, uniform pedagogy that caters to the slackest. Keep your best work out of the hands of these teachers, and if they do get a hold of it, avoid discussing it with them. This is about you and your motivation to continue putting together great things for students. If you don’t hear their uninformed, counter-productive and downright selfish comments, you won’t be discouraged – so don’t engage with these teachers unless they have something constructive to contribute.
5. The “I’ve been soooo busy” guy
Famous Quotes: “Nah I didn’t get to that, I’ve been sooooo busy“
Good teachers work hard and are busy lots of the time. In fact, it turns out that in most jobs around the world, employees are busy. What a fun fact! That doesn’t excuse these jackasses from flaking on commitments, breaking promises and just simply letting you down over and over again. You see these guys in the staff room: “Yeah I’ll email it to you this afternoon!”, “Yeah I’ll come see you about it tomorrow”. Every email you send them goes unanswered unless they’ve won a chocolate. They join five school committees and only attend the meetings when they have a gripe they want to resolve. They never explain themselves, and only apologise when they feel forced to, so don’t expect anything if you’re new, or inexperienced, because you don’t matter.
Avoid relying on these tools for anything you don’t have to. For important things, email them a confirmation once and copy in their superior, and your superior. Or use a digital calendar, if your school has one. Most importantly, badger these fools with comments during informal moments to remind them how unreliable they are! They won’t like it, but they can’t refute it. You’ll be that annoying ‘nag’ but a change of behaviour might follow.
6. The Insecure Buzz-kill
Famous Quotes: “What’s so great about that? You probably just downloaded it from the internet”
Any new teacher can relate – you accomplish something remarkable, innovative and special and feel proud. You share this with your colleagues hoping for some support and encouragement to keep going. Then some dipstick who’s been recycling the same worksheet for 10 years takes the jam out of your donut by cheapening your accomplishment. “Been there, done that!”, “Which website did you pull that from?”, “Yeah, everyone’s doing that these days”. The worst I came across was when I complimented a teacher during my practical placement, and another teacher privately remarked “Yeah, but he has no family so he’s got time to do these sorts of things”. These donkeys can be identified relatively easily by counting the number of times they’ve complimented a random colleague. None? Then they’re most likely an insecure buzz-kill.
I sound like a broken record, but avoid these clowns. Their battle is with themselves. They know they could do great things, but they’d prefer to browse cat memes and bitch about the staff in the English department with their office BFF. It’s insecurity that drives their shallow, counter-productive comments and you shouldn’t let them stop you from doing your thing. Join professional teacher networks outside your school if you need to – I found that works a treat (Hello STEM X Crew!). These guys will support your new endeavours, giving you that encouragement to continue.
7. The Babysitter
Famous Quotes: “Shhh!” and “Complete this worksheet”
If teachers were spices, these ones are flour. You walk past the same teacher’s class repeatedly and you can’t help notice that every time you walk past the class is silently working away – teacher at their desk, doing some marking, browsing Youtube, or preparing worksheets for the following lesson. I couldn’t believe these teachers still existed when I became an educator – what’s worse is some of these geese are new teachers. Who the hell sits at their desk for a whole lesson? These are the teachers that students complain about – “She doesn’t actually teach us, just supervises!”. Now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place – because teachers must support teachers.
Be happy – these teachers make you look fantastic in comparison. The only way these teachers affect our practice is from a pastoral care point of view. As professionals we can’t (and should never) slag off a colleague, no matter what. This includes to students and to their parents. (Blogs are totally ok). You need to bite your lip as a professional. I’ve found that actually talking to these lazy sods about what I do in the class can either encourage them to try flexible learning options, or expose them as another crappy type of teacher like the Insecure Buzz-kill [see above]. Either way it’s an enlightening experience and worth a try!
8. The deputy who last taught in 1995
Famous Quotes: “I just got back from a PD in Hawaii – our lower school students can just use their phones as calculators – why isn’t this happening?”
The out-of-touch leader is present in all workplaces. In teaching, their poor judgement is made worse by heavy marketing disguised as “professional development”. While the underpaid and under-appreciated teachers get to spend PD days cooped up in a classroom hall watching a PowerPoint presentation on how to use a smart board, these oxygen thieves take the big international trips partly sponsored by the likes of Microsoft who are peddling their “innovative” version of the same technology that has already been used by intelligent teachers for the past 5 years. They return from their vacation with a new drive to create some sort of Frankenstein’s monster of a school-wide implementation. The half-assed approach obviously fails and your leader blames you. “It worked in the brochure”. They will handball you tasks and you can’t even begin to explain to them why they’re being unreasonable. They see your skepticism as cynicism and dismiss your concerns. Any change is often short-lived and forgotten about – in 12 months they’ll return from another PD with a new flavour of over-hyped garbage to try. Meanwhile they won’t fund the real innovation within because they refuse to believe it can simply be born from within their school. Don’t be ridiculous.
Whatever you do, don’t go rogue on these leaders. They are passionate about what they preach (well for 3 months they are) and may take your negativity as a personal attack. Smile, nod and give whatever they’re peddling a red-hot go. You’ll most likely find a small portion of it useful and applicable in your classroom and that can’t hurt. One day they’ll come to you with a bright idea which is something you’ve been doing for years – bite your lip.
9. The Rogue
Famous Quotes: “Yeah, I like my way better so I’ll just keep doing it haha”
I’ve worked a number of jobs – teaching seems to be the only profession where you can get away with not following the boss’s instructions. It was an absolutely mind-blowing discovery of mine. This guy is easy to identify because of how hardcore he portrays himself to be. He arrives to class 5 minutes late, every time, because he believes the best way to deal with late students is to make sure he’s the last to arrive. He doesn’t pay attention during meetings so that when he gets pulled up on not doing the right thing, he can plead ignorance and get off lightly. He’s generally more experienced (or thinks he is anyway) and if he’s in charge of something you’re doing, you’re stuffed. How can you please your employer and the team leader if they want opposite things? That’s when things get toxic.
Never join a team with this guy if you can avoid it. They have a reputation amongst the management and you’ll find them getting less opportunities around the school – do you really want to be lumped into the category of people who can’t do what they’re told? The days of the cushy permanent teaching job are coming to an end, and the Rogues will be weeded out as younger, keener and obedient teachers come on board. There are some rules that we all break – bureaucracy is often excruciating and we manage by bending rules on a daily basis – but boasting about your defiance is a quick way to back yourself into a corner.
And I’m done.
About the Author:
Dr Good Rant is a secondary teacher, thrust into an amazing job in an amazing school with amazing students. Dr Rant believes the challenges of teaching are less about the teaching and more about all of the other stuff that comes with the job. He enjoys complaining about the job he truly loves and believes that life is best lived through satire.