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I am a mid-career teacher at a public school in the USA. I'm the most senior and highest-paid teacher in my school and, until recently, was very satisfied with the job. Admin respected me, and largely left me alone, knowing I would get the job done properly and that I knew what I was doing.

Only a few years prior, I quit working at another school in the district that had an overwhelmingly "old-school" staff. Most were above fifty, had almost no teacher training to get their jobs, or were from overseas. Their methods were very traditional. I felt suffocated—forced to run a literal late-19th Century classroom. At times they threatened to strip me of my license if I didn't toe the line. When I tried to defend my practice, they assumed what I described was "made up".

This year, the district reshuffled some administrators and the new admin in charge of overseeing my teaching is from the workplace I left. I'm back to where I was before, being scrutinized heavily by someone who assumes I don't know what I'm doing. He uses the evidence that my classroom looks "chaotic" as proof that I need help, when his idea of as sixth-grade classroom is students seated in rows quietly taking notes from a lecturer.

I'm frustrated being back in the prior situation. My solution before was to leave. How can I push back against this situation where I feel I'm being misunderstood?

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    It seems to me that your new methods would have some basis in research. Have you tried educating these administrator on the subject?
    – jwh20
    Jan 18, 2023 at 16:13
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    Like it or not, the boss does get to set the rules. Either present evidence and try to convince them to let you demonstrate that your preferred approach works (which may take years), or try to find an employer who agrees with you (which may also take years). Or change careers (which may take years).
    – keshlam
    Jan 18, 2023 at 16:17
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    If you are a teacher you are in a union. What does the union say? Jan 18, 2023 at 16:33
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    Now if your school was really happy with your methods for years, and someone who comes from an old school doesn't like it, then your union might feel that there is a personal grudge against you at work.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 18, 2023 at 16:45
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    Many teachers unions can only intervene if the very specific language of the contract has been breached. In my experience most unions would be unlikely to act against an admin for scrutinizing a teacher. It would have to get to the point of harassment for them to act, and this doesn't sound like harassment at all. Most likely outcome is that the admin will just make it so hard on the OP that he/she just decides to walk away
    – nuggethead
    Jan 19, 2023 at 1:41

2 Answers 2

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There are two important differences between this round with the admin than your previous interaction with them:

Proof and Evidence

First you have at least a few years of using your teaching techniques. If those students went through some form of Standards of Learning (SOL) testing and those grades are comparable or better than other students then that can be used as proof that your teaching techniques do not need to change.

If you have any other hard numbers that your students are doing just fine, then document them and show them to the admin.

Allies

Second are there any other teachers in your current school that also do not conform to this new admin's standards? Or is there a teacher's union or association that can intervene? If so ask them (fellow teachers or union) to support you and for advice on how to approach and convince this admin. Also, they may be aware of other avenues to convince this admin to back down.

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    Also, parents can be allies as well, especially if there is a board of parents. Jan 19, 2023 at 5:58
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    piggy-backing off the parents suggestion - if you have one chummy, gossipy parent who loves your class, and one righteous parent who has to have the best for her precious child, you are one malicious compliance mention of a 19th century ruler away from having them solve this for you.
    – LeLetter
    Jan 19, 2023 at 15:38
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    @LeLetter Especially if they have younger kids as well. Then they really have incentive to keep the good teachers around. Jan 19, 2023 at 22:49
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How to deal with old-school administrators not understanding my methods?

Schedule a meeting with the administrator so that you can present your case for why you should be allowed to use your methods. Make sure that the administrator fully understands your method. If you have any case studies, local examples, or official research that supports your methods, you should bring them with you to present to this administrator.

Keep in mind that the point of this meeting is not to argue with the administrator or to criticize or even comment on their "old school" mentality. You just need to present the evidence that demonstrates why your method works, how it will benefit the students and the school, and why you should be allowed to use it.

After that, you need to accept the administrator's decision. At the end of the day, it is their decision to make, not yours. If you cannot live with your boss making a decision that you disagree with you can always resign as you did in the past but as you have already experienced, moving away from your problems is not always a valid long term solution.

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    The principal (administrator) does not determine education policy in every jurisdiction in the USA. If an administrator is bonkers, they'll get fired; so no, you don't "need to accept" it everywhere.
    – Yakk
    Jan 19, 2023 at 4:01
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    You absolutely shouldn't just "accept the administrator's decision", that's a deriliction of duty to the children. Their job isn't to do whatever the admin staff say, their job is to give the children the best possible education. Jan 19, 2023 at 10:27
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    @pipe - Obviously not... And the scientific consensus, backed by rigourous evidence, is what should decide which one proper. Certainly not school administrators. Jan 19, 2023 at 11:50
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    @ScottishTapWater The administrator's job is also to ensure that the children have the best possible education and if they feel that one of their employees ( teacher ) is using a methodology that will not give the best possible education it is their responsibility to correct this.
    – sf02
    Jan 19, 2023 at 14:50
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    @sf02 - but if the methodology is well supported by both literature and actual student performance, then the administrator's feelings should be pushed back on.
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 19, 2023 at 15:08

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