Sunday, August 2, 2015

Survival Tips for Teachers from BAT Members – List 1 
Initiated by Megan Lawson
Edited by Amy Wolpin

BATs help BATs needing guidance while going through difficult and challenging professional and personal circumstances. We give each other strength by listening and offering advice and words of support. This list of tips started as a way to help new members, but we want to share our brainstorm ideas with others as we prepare for the new school year.


  • Anticipate a situation before it occurs without being too paranoid. 
  • Be offensive. Not defensive.
  • Sometimes one just needs to sit back and breathe.
  •   Do not let one person's opinion of you define you.

  • Words of Wisdom for when you're upset:
       1. Write down what you're thinking and feeling on a piece of paper and then crumple it up.
       2. In order to not give power to those who are upsetting us, imagine them as cartoon characters.
       3. Write an angry letter. Don't send it.
       4. Set worry appointments for yourself and only worry at those times.

  • When called to "talk" ALWAYS ALWAYS  ALWAYS  have an extra set of ears. Aka witness. Then you have time to think about what was said and someone else to talk with about it who may be a little less emotional than you are in the moment.

  • I saw something recently that pointed out that anyone in crisis has already survived 100% of the crises in their lives. I found that reassuring.

  • Be familiar with your contract, as well as using your Weingarten Rights.

  • Prioritize. Some things can wait. Some things don't matter. Some things, and people, are not worth your positive energy.

  • Know that the walls have ears.

  • Know that you are not alone.

  • Write down at least one thing positive about your job.

  • Stay positive while in the trenches.

  • Smile and pretend all is well until you are home.

  • Don't say anything you don't want to get back to the principal no matter how much you trust the person. After 15 years of friendship I started teaching with my "best" friend. I was shocked to find out how many times she had thrown me and other friends under the bus.

  • Document, document, and document! Send copies of all emails to your home computer so things don't disappear from your work computer.

  • Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Do not assume someone is your friend.

  • Smile in the hallway and then shut your door

  • Stand up for yourself. I used to just "take it" and never defend myself. Took the criticism to heart all the time...Then I realized that I'm NOT a "new" teacher anymore...and I KNOW my stuff. I started to defend myself and my choices, and I found I got more respect..

  • Remember it's a job. You're doing it so you can support yourself and your family, and your family is who really matters in the end.

  • CYA. Cover your ass. Make it so that you can prove why you are doing something.

  • I learned that I had to be direct with my co-worker and speak up for myself when we were supposed to split the duties evenly and work as a team  Next time, it is I would like to do X while you do Y (or vice versa), and what do you think? Rather than me: pulling more of the weight and sucking it up just to make the other person "happy". No, we are a team. We are making the same wage per hour and therefore should be doing exactly the same work.

  • So this year, I am going to smile in the hall, smile in the PLC meetings, and then shut my door and do what I know is right for my students.

  • My advice: always have a witness. I know it's been said before, but it is ultra important. Many of us here have been hoodwinked and blindsided. You have rights. How many of us have been outright lied to by a person in charge? Many of us have said, "It won't happen to me. I'm fine." Then WHAM! So have a witness. Have someone to take notes. It's amazing how professional someone becomes with a witness in the room.

  • Remind yourself - "Not my circus. Not my monkeys."

  • Personally, I hate it when coworkers talk behind someone's back. I think that it is bad form. My suspicion is that these people may talk about you, too. If you are at a lunch table (or elsewhere) with your colleagues and someone is picking on someone, and people are uncomfortable or laughing along, you do not have to sit in silence. Feel free to get up and leave. It makes a statement without lecturing anyone. You remove the bully's ability to feel powerful.

  • Don't fight back until you sleep on it AND talk with your union rep! Resist the urge to defend yourself...listen and respond when you have the witnesses!

  • Worrying doesn't help but it can seriously make the worrier sick. Do yoga.

  • There's a saying, those who talk to you about others will talk to them about you.

  • See a therapist so you're not constantly venting to your partner or friends and jeopardizing those relationships.

  • When tempted to punch your Principal in the face, simply walk calmly away ignoring his cries of "don't you walk away from me".

  • Document everything and don't give up without a’re worth more. As for making it through during...breathe and smile.

  • Remember....homicide is Not an option.

  • Document, document, document.....

  • Do not doubt your gifts and talents. Those who do not have the same talents and gifts may disparage you to make themselves feel right or good.... You know better!! And you will learn more about yourselves and others true colors.

  • I begin the year telling myself that I will be ZEN me. This goes along the line with the person who stated smile in the halls and then close the door. A few moments each day helps with some mood music as I grade. Music is so powerful for releasing stress, anger...

  • Start a caucus of like-minded teachers within your union (or a support group if in a right-to-work state) and keep reaching out to the BAT Haven!

  • Take a pad and pen into every meeting. The power of just writing down notes in front of everyone is truly remarkable.

  • Something I learned is that the people you thought you could trust may not always be so trustworthy.

  • Nobody but another teacher understands what we go through.

  • Just do the next thing next.

  • Document, document, document, EVERYTHING. The good and the bad.

  • Document every conversation with admin in front of the admin. Document every time the admin (and anyone else) comes into your classroom - make a note of how long they were in there and what part of the lesson. Comes in handy during evaluation time.

  • The more data we can generate for bullying the better armed we are.

  • With me it's logging everything and being familiar with the law. Because if you don't have a teachers union, your state should. Ask objective people who can answer the question unbiasedly. Helps keep paranoia at bay when you're in charge.

  • Always remember change is constant. Your challenge is to outlast the people who are creating adversity for you.

       These are rules I live by at work, and so far I don't have that many problems (knock wood): 

  1. First, have your resume ready. The grass really can be greener someplace else. Don't be afraid to find a better situation. 
  2. Second, document and don't be afraid to let it be known that you document everything. Buy a blank book with numbered pages. Document every meeting with an admin, every time you are told to so something by an admin, every phone call home, the discussion at every PLC, etc. Use the numbered pages because then no one can accuse you of doctoring your record after the fact. People will see you consistently using the book and will know not to mess with you.
  3. Third, let people think that you don't really NEED the job. You are there because you want to be, but you could just as easily quit tomorrow. Never say that you NEED money from supplements, that you can't pay a bill until the next pay day, that you have a job on the side. These make you an easy target. DO talk up your big summer adventure, your new house, your burning need to return a call to your investment broker.

  • Use the word NO judiciously. Believe-it-or-not, this makes people respect you more.
  • When an administrator says that you are doing something wrong, ask nicely for specific advice on how to improve. What would they like to see, specifically, the next time. If they are still vague, ask for an example, and give them what they want.
  • Listen carefully and say little. This goes for your dealings with superiors and colleagues. Know everything you can about the people with whom you work but offer little about yourself. Many of my colleagues don't even know I have a 3-year-old boy (there's literally hundreds of staff at my school). I share if they ask, and that just amazes them more that I can do my job so well with a little one at home.
  • My best advice, from "The Wit and Wisdom of Forrest Gump:" "Try not to screw up. This will satisfy a few people and amaze everybody else."

  • If you are in a union state don't let your local prevent you from talking to your regional. The fact that my regional knew months ahead of time that I was whistle-blowingki and would be a target had the cavalry all ready to go when they did come after me.

  • If possible leave your phone ready to record so that if an admin comes into your room when you're alone you can turn it on with a push of a button and not be noticed.

  • Put a post it over the webcam on your classroom computer so they can't spy on you.

  • Forward all important emails to a second account. I knew they were following everything I did so my account was conveniently that of a law office. Even if you don't have a law office, name your email account that anyway. It keeps them guessing.

  • Write down everything and who said it no matter how innocent it seems. Can't tell you how many times I heard "who told you to do that?"

  • Keep your mouth closed and your ears open. There's a lot to be heard around the copier.

  • You'd be surprised the allies you have that are going through the same thing but won't say anything.

  • Most of all remember there will always be moles and backstabbers who are reaping the benefits of their favored positions. Anything you say will go right back to them. Loose lips sink ships.


  1. Thanks for this wellspring of wisdom. I had no idea that the harassment some teachers deal with could be so intense or pervasive.

  2. When the fight begins, there will be very high days and very very low ones. You have to know that one day is not the outcome. Roll with the punches.


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