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Savvy's Message:

I don't think I'm being spied on. It was just a question to get a discussion going. And whether I'm being spied on or not, it does happen in schools. Some people are actively looking for something, anything, to report.

I'm all for reporting things that are not in the best interest of a child. I would never look down on anyone who did this.

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Discussion Review (newest messages first)
Gr8*Teacher 05-26-2016 05:48 PM

Simple...I'd report it! Unprofessional, disrespectful, and not deserving of working around children!

Savvy 05-21-2014 08:05 PM

I'm too tired to type an entire explanation, but I agree with your definitions of spying vs. reporting

WindWatcher-You are so right about tattling vs. telling.

Oddsock 05-20-2014 03:54 PM

Just wait till you have a principal that has an affair with a teacher. Both are married. It's hard to have respect for either of them...not to mention how it effects every little thing that comes up.

omacrulzzz 05-19-2014 04:11 PM

I can assure You I am not spying for the principal! Now, tell me what you think of the admin around here

WindWatcher 05-19-2014 02:43 PM

You know, I have nothing to hide. I come to work to do my job, yet I have been spied and reported on. The items are trivial and as someone else has said--taken out of context and based on preconceived notions. I've even asked someone for help and they've reported that to make me look like I was unable to do my job. I think we need to draw the line between tattling and telling like we do for the kids! lol.

Angelo 05-19-2014 07:12 AM

Agree. Maybe the definition of "spying" matters.

Just curious (truly... not trying to be combative -- it can be hard to communicate tone in a text message) as to what procedure you (or others) would follow in terms of speaking up when something is wrong. Would you do it in writing? In person? Would you approach the colleague first about whom you had concerns? My major issue is when someone is being investigated/reported on and doesn't know it or doesn't know the source. In my jurisdiction (maybe there are regional differences), this is called an "adverse report" made against a fellow teacher. In such a case, we are required to furnish said colleague with a full written, signed account of any potentially adverse report made to a superior within three days of making it.

Originally Posted by Rockguykev
As an educated professional you have every right to judge the quality of others in your field.
What evidence would I collect to do so? I suppose if I were in a situation where I co-taught in the same classroom on a day to day basis, I might have sufficient first-hand evidence to form a clear picture of a colleague's teaching. In my case, I teach my own classes, and don't have the opportunity to observe a colleague in the classroom for extended periods. I feel as though I'd be forming my impressions based on gut feelings, hearsay, so on and so forth.

I've witnessed cases in which teachers have been reported for being "mean and disrespectful" to students (pretty vague), mainly because they have an imposing presence and a low tolerance for nonsense.

Just last year I witnessed a colleague raked over the coals for being "disorganized." The evidence? Her desk in the workroom was "messy." A few students commented that she hadn't returned their marked work fast enough. The real reason for the report? She had misplaced another teacher's DVD (and offered to replace it), but the other teacher became angry and reported everything she had ever heard or seen of the teacher's organization to the P. She went into the P's office, closed the door, and ranted (all because she was annoyed about the DVD) for what was evidently a long time. She never said a word about her conversation to the P to her colleague. When said colleague confronted her and asked if she had spoken to the P about her, she initially lied and said she hadn't. When pressed, the informer said, "Fine, it was me. You shouldn't even be a teacher if you can't keep track of things." When asked why she hadn't told anyone about going to see the P, her response was, and I quote, a highly professional "Screw you." I'm not saying the informer wasn't right to be annoyed about the loss of her DVD, but I'm not sure going behind closed doors to the P about was the most helpful solution.

Originally Posted by Rockguykev
We complain that students can't do it. We complain that parents can't do it.
Student and parent complaints tend to be unreliable and self-serving. Often they are used to deflect attention from the student's own weaknesses and lack of responsibility. Too many disciplinary or learning interventions get derailed by parents and/or students who want to shift the conversation away from why they aren't doing their work and into a litany of complaints about the teacher and their style of teaching and everything they are allegedly doing wrong.

Originally Posted by Rockguykev
We complain that admins can't do it.
Again, maybe a regional difference. Where I work, admins do conduct regular teacher appraisals. I'm surprised to hear there are places where teachers aren't subject to evaluation! Of course, teacher appraisals have to be based on observable evidence, not hearsay or anonymous reports. And teachers have the opportunity to respond in writing to any part of the appraisal with which they disagree.

What are some examples of something being "wrong" that might warrant a report to one's superior? I'm thinking of cases of child abuse, of course, or someone breaking the law or breaching ethics. I would not hesitate to report something like that, but I would also acknowledge a the accused's right to see the evidence collected and confront his or her accuser.

In too many cases (where I work), someone will sit down with the P informally, dish the dirt on a colleague, and then ask to have their name kept out of it.

My wife (elementary teacher) used to work for a P who would call people in, demand information on colleagues, and then refuse to identify the source when confronting the teacher involved. She'd play little cat-and-mouse games like questioning the teacher with things like: "If one of your colleagues were to tell me that you did (or didn't do) x, y, or z, would she be lying?" "If one of your students were to claim x, y, or z, would he be lying?"

Another P in our district (high school level) likes to track teachers randomly using the school's security cameras. A teacher will arrive to school on a Monday to see a note that reads, "Just FYI, during the week of May 1-5, your median arrival time was 8:10. Your median departure time was 4:35." She'd also buzz into teachers' classrooms 15 minutes before the bell to make sure the teacher was present at contract time. "Excuse me... Mrs. Jones?" "Yes?" "Just checking." If the teacher didn't respond, she'd page them over the PA, pull them from whatever they were doing, and say, "Just checking!" You'd think this was in response to some sort of rampant attendance problem with teachers, but no. There was no problem. She just liked to micromanage. On one occasion, she stopped a friend of mine as she was coming in 6 or 7 minutes before the bell, looked at her watch, and clucked her tongue. She then proceeded to lecture him on contract times. He said, "Fine. Sorry. There was an accident on the freeway. I'll try to leave earlier." Then she said, "I saw two other cars pulling in besides yours. Who else did you see in the parking lot coming in?" He declined to say, and she threatened him with insubordination charges.

Serious cases are one thing, and there procedures for reporting them. I just don't like cat-and-mouse games. If I had a problem with someone, I like to think I'd be adult enough to take it up with them directly. I wouldn't go behind their back and tattle.

Those are some specific cases I have witnessed. Maybe it's helpful to discuss "spying" in specific terms so we're all on the same page.
Rockguykev 05-19-2014 05:34 AM

As an educated professional you have every right to judge the quality of others in your field. We complain that admins can't do it. We complain that students can't do it. We complain that parents can't do it.

Then we refuse to do it.

Back on topic, I must have a different view of spying then you do Savvy. I've not worked, thankfully, with anyone who is out looking for trouble or for people to mess up. I have worked with plenty of people who won't say a word when they know something is wrong. I would agree that doing such a thing just for your own personal sense of power would be unprofessional.

Angelo 05-18-2014 06:37 PM

Ah... the old "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" argument.

There's a difference between appropriate scrutiny and spying. Spying in schools is rarely a reliable source upon which to base a qualitative assessment of an educator's effectiveness. Things that can happen while spying:

a) witnessing a comment, decision, action, etc. out of context and making inferences that may or may not be accurate

b) confirmation bias: if we are predisposed to dislike a particular person, we may report selectively on evidence that appears to confirm that predisposition

c) reporting rumor or innuendo as fact

I've seen a few too many smear campaigns against good teachers in my time to trust spying as a valid practice to ensure accountability. In any event, I stand by my assertion that reporting on colleagues should only be done in very serious cases (where we have witnessed misconduct, not heard it through the grapevine). And even in those cases, the accused has the right to confront his or her accuser. Going behind a colleague's back is cowardly and childish.

Moreover, unless I'm someone's immediate superior, I am no one to judge their competency as an educator. I would certainly report a case of abuse, as I'm legally mandated to do, and even then, I would be upfront and not attempt to do so anonymously. But it isn't my place - legally or ethically - to evaluate a colleague's teaching; I think I'll work on the plank in my own eye before pointing out the speck of dust in my neighbor's.

I'm always amazed, too, by teachers who form judgments of their colleagues based on student talk. I always say, really? You're suddenly going to trust the word of some 16-year-olds? Some teachers seem to think that if enough students make claims about a teacher's performance or if the "good kids" back up the claims, that there's enough smoke to infer a fire. Personally, I take everything I hear with a grain of salt -- as Othello says, "Show me the occular proof!"

Savvy 05-18-2014 09:52 AM

I don't think I'm being spied on. It was just a question to get a discussion going. And whether I'm being spied on or not, it does happen in schools. Some people are actively looking for something, anything, to report.

I'm all for reporting things that are not in the best interest of a child. I would never look down on anyone who did this.

Rockguykev 05-18-2014 07:16 AM

I'd love to know what you're doing that you're so worried about being spied on.

We have a responsibility to our students. If I have to report someone, teacher or admin, to a higher-up because they are not serving their students properly I will.

Angelo 05-17-2014 06:58 PM

Almost every serious decision comes down to one of two sources of motivation: power or principle. Power decisions are those taken with the view to gaining something for oneself (money, influence, praise, advancement, etc.). Principled decisions are taken based on a person's fundamental moral code: is this the right thing to do or not?

That said, why do some teachers spy for admin? Is it power or principle? In most cases, it's power. The warm, glowing feeling of being part (if only tangentially) of the upper echelon. Waltzing with the "big boys" for one or two numbers. Alternatively, the spy may be cutting others off at the knees with the idea of stepping over them to get ahead. I'd say power accounts for 90+ per cent of the cases in which teachers spy for admins.

In a handful of cases, teachers turn informer as a matter of principle. A case in which the informer believes a child's safety to be in immediate peril would be the obvious example.

In any event, I'm of the opinion that adult colleagues should deal with their differences face to face. If I don't have the guts to make my concerns known to someone directly, I have no business discussing those concerns with others, let alone the person's immediate supervisor. Going over someone's head without their knowledge is cowardly and childish. Full stop.

In the rare case that can't be resolved face to face among colleagues, if the decision is made to involve a P in the discussion, the adult thing is to approach the person directly and tell them I plan to speak to the P and exactly what I plan to say. I should invite them to the meeting to share their side of the story.

As a teacher, it is not for me to decide whether a fellow teacher is effective or not. That's an evaluative judgement, and where I teach, that's an ethical "no no." Unless I witness a child in grave danger in a person's care (in which case I would, as I say, be obliged to TELL the person I was going to the P about it and invite them to join me for the conversation), it is not for me to judge a colleague's performance. I'm not his or her supervisor. I'll give him or her my assessment (give HIM or HER, not his or her P) only if he or she asks for it directly.

I see too many cases of teachers being judged on the basis of student gossip ("so and so shows movies all the time;" "so and so takes two months to hand back graded tests;" "so and so lets us play on our phones in class;" etc., etc.). Personally, I would need a more reliable source than student chatter or parent grumbling to form an opinion of a colleague's performance in the classroom.

AprilDelight 05-17-2014 11:16 AM

We have a couple of those at our school, and one in particular is the P's pet. She is not to be trusted. Well, P is retiring at the end of this year, and Miss Golden Child is moving on. Interesting, that.

willika13 05-16-2014 09:42 PM

Good principals should have their ears to the ground. They should not need a "spy" in the building. They should be in classrooms and in charge of the building. I should not have to "spy" for him or her...way above my pay grade. Stop doing their jobs for them, make them earn their pay!

timeforbed 05-16-2014 07:58 PM

I think some do it because it makes them feel validated, like they are as good as they think they are. The one at my old school thought she was the only one who knew the correct one way of teaching.

And she sure could stir the pot and cause drama with any teacher that might be perceived as "better" than she was. Nasty creature. Wish we had had a principal who would tell her off instead of encouraging her spying.

By the way, she's a member of PT. And this will go right over her head.

rhubarb 05-16-2014 07:52 PM

These rats do not care on bit that no one else on staff likes them or trusts them. They don't care who they hurt because they see themselves climbing the ladder.

We have one of these idiots on staff. I have never seen a more 2 cheeks deep, apple polishing brown noser in my life.

I have to hide my contempt for this person as this person is principal's pet.

mteacher2nd 05-16-2014 07:40 PM

My biggest concern is the culture of fear. No one wants to tell the person who may actually be doing something wrong, that they need to change. Everyone is scared that the person may get defensive, go off on them, or even tell the boss that another person said what they said. This is true on my campus. The principal will tell you she's gotten "good" reviews and everyone on campus is happy and we have good morale. Meanwhile, no one agrees, but no one will stand up and tell her for fear of retaliation in the form of bad reviews, more walkthroughs, or bitter words. Some teachers at our school need to be told that they are handling parents in the wrong way (i.e rudely) and that their classroom management style sucks (i.e. yelling at kids, belittling kids, etc.) but no one will tell them (even parents) for fear that they will tell the principal and (see above) retaliation. I think we should just go to a person and say "Here's what is great about what you're doing, but I see this also and that may not be the best way to handle it." So, as far as anyone who tells the principal about something rather than going to that actual person, no matter how horrible they are, I disagree. Either tell the person to their face or keep it to yourself.
(I amend this is terms of actual physical harm or abuse, of course tell someone if that is the case!)

latebloomer72 05-16-2014 07:18 PM

I don't know, but when it happens it does create distrust.

teenytiny 05-16-2014 07:07 PM

I think mostly, they like to feel like a big shot power player, like they are being an insider and influencing the boss. I think some of them love the drama and love to stir the pot.

TLC 05-16-2014 06:59 PM

I sincerely hate a tattletale. But I kinda went to the principal once this year.
The custodian flatout would not help me. I spent 6 weeks without a table for reading groups. My DH works in the corporate world and I asked for his advice.
He said to copy the principal, but make the email encouraging and not confrontational. I said something like, "I know you are working on the table issue, (he wasn't really) but I was wondering if you could give me some sort of a timeline so that I can better plan an after school activity."
Guess whose table arrived AND door and sink were fixed within 48 hours?

Savvy 05-16-2014 06:19 PM

I can appreciate someone being friends with the P as long as they can keep prefessional and personal separate.

This is just a question. If someone is spying on me all they will find is a good time and lots of learning happening in my part of the world.

Cruxian-Your example is addressing a real concern. The spies I speak of just want to blab about all of the happenings in the school. They are the kind of people that you can't feel comfortable around because you never know what they will share with someone.

focusschmocus 05-16-2014 06:12 PM

I have a coworker who always CC's every email she sends me to the P and AP. The AP is my primary rater. It seems like she's a real "gotcha" type of person. One time she CC'ed the AP about something I agreed to do for which the deadline had not yet come and gone. I went to the AP about it and told him it really pissed me off. If I say I am going to do something, I do it. He told me he really didn't understand why she kept doing that. He had not asked her to keep him in the loop. I guess she was just CC'ing admin as a way to ensure that I would do my job? I don't know. I don't understand people who are wired in such a way. She's a reading specialist, and in our school, you would swear that they think they run the school. It's so irritating.

cruxian 05-16-2014 06:09 PM

I understand what you're saying. I'm not usually one to report to the principal or rat people out.
Having said that, nor will I keep things a secret if I feel like things are not being done in the best interest of children.
We have had (sporadically) teachers who were just bat-sh*t crazy. Kid you not. By no standard are these people who deserve to be left alone unsupervised with children. Or hamsters. Side note: I know that many teachers are great, good, or can improve with support but quite frankly there are some teachers who aren't good and won't follow suggestions to improve.
I will not run to the Prince to tell on them but will mention something if I'm a direct witness and see it as an area of concern. As an example, I imagine librarians in elementary schools want to share their love of books, literature and research with the kids. Not so ours this year. He showed videos everyday unrelated to the curriculum that contained content that (even in my liberal opinion) was not appropriate for kids (like mentions of masturbation and stopping to discuss the meaning of unfamiliar word using context clues---the word was whiskey). I teach elementary school, that's not okay. Could he have considered me a spy because I mentioned it to the principal?
Sure. Am I? Maybe.
I'm sure that's not the case for you but it's a case for why people say things to the principal.

GraceKrispy 05-16-2014 05:51 PM

It's a position of perceived power.

I was personal friends with one of my administrators, and it was a difficult position. When I moved out of the classroom into a counselor position, our relationship changed and she seemed to consider me "one of them" more so, and tried to get information from me. I found it difficult to separate personal from professional sometimes, and remember what position I held at work, and what position our friendship held outside of work.

Sometimes she'd ask for my "take" of certain policies or positions, without asking for information about specific teachers. Those felt more professional, as an admin asks a counselor (small school, I was in charge of a lot of things like testing and teacher training). Once in a while, she'd ask things about specific teachers and what she thought might be going on in their classrooms. Those felt out of my circle.

amiga13 05-16-2014 05:41 PM

I work with a young teacher who was very close to our principal last year--which was the principal's first year. Every time I passed through the office, young teacher was in the P's office, yucking it up. They continued their cute doings this year. It was clear young teacher was a pipeline to the P. Then the P was overheard saying some very unfortunate things and young teacher appeared to distance herself. Recently we were having a critical lunchtime discussion and I preceded my comment by saying to young teacher, "Please don't repeat this to P."
"Why would you say that to me?" she asked.
"Because you're friends with her," I replied.
"I'm not friends with her," she avowed.
...Yesterday we were eating lunch when the P walked in, put keys and a drink in front of young teacher and said, "Thanks for letting me borrow your car. I got you a drink--they didn't have your favorite flavor so I got your second favorite."

Right. Not friends. And I trust them both implicitly. Right.

WindWatcher 05-16-2014 05:32 PM

They want to get ahead, plain and simple. They also may be doing dirt and want the principal to turn a blind eye.

Savvy 05-16-2014 05:19 PM

There always seems to be a spy among the bunch. Why do people do this?

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