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amich amich is offline
 
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Navigating a Demanding Coworker
Old 05-19-2019, 10:03 PM
 
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Hello, all! New member, here! I look forward to chatting and helping others out on the boards!

I am in the midst of a difficult situation at work, and I’m not sure the best way to go about handling it. I’m sure there have to be other teachers who have been through something similar, so maybe someone would be able to provide their perspective on what is going on. As a warning, this is going to be a little long.

I am about to finish up my fourth year of teaching, so I’m still pretty early in my career. I recently found out that next year, I am moving classrooms and am supposed to share a room with a teacher that has been causing problems for everyone in the department. Our school has a shortage of rooms, so I am used to sharing. However, this particular teacher is incredibly self-serving and does not like to share - and she goes out of her way to inconvenience anyone who has to teach in her room since she doesn’t want anyone there in the first place. It doesn’t help that she has an incredible amount of pull in the school, having given many years of service to the district and started a special program unique to the school. Even though she is now retired and only teaching part-time, the school worships her because the class attracts academically gifted students and is a selling point to the community. She is the only part-time teacher with a classroom dedicated to her (she teaches only one class each day), doesn’t allow other teachers to use space in the room, sits in the back and interrupts lessons if she feels she can teach something better, and has been known to occasionally harass teachers when she is irritated (she once cursed out the entire department when someone accidentally ate a donut she had “reserved” for herself).

Despite the above behaviors, this teacher uses her pull this to successfully manipulate administration in her favor and regularly throws tantrums or threatens to quit to get her way. The worst part is that administration usually gives in at the expense of the rest of us, and they have been for years. Recently, this teacher viciously attacked my coworker’s teaching abilities because my coworker teaches the prerequisite class for her special elective and she doesn't agree with my coworker's "collaborative" teaching style for the class. She called a meeting with administration to throw my coworker under the bus so that she could force my coworker out and replace her with another faculty member she is friends with. When administration pushed back, she threatened to leave. As a result, administration gave in. On that day, they basically confirmed to me that they value this one person over everyone else in the department.

In the midst of this drama, my coworker understandably will not be teaching in the same room as her anymore. Instead, I have now been deemed the most suitable person to share a room with this teacher. As a result, I am being passed for the opportunity to have my own room and it is being given to the newest person they are hiring. When my supervisor brought this up to me today, I was told that this teacher has graciously decided to “let me” teach in “her” room next year. My supervisor also had me sit down with her to make a list of “requests” that I’d like - because apparently I need to get her permission and approval to set aside space in the classroom for my students, even though I will be teaching five classes in there and she will only be teaching one. She also doesn’t want anyone coming in the room during her special class, so the classroom is “off limits” in the afternoons during my prep time and after school when she is in there, even though I need to set up in the afternoon for the following day due to family responsibilities in the morning before work. I will also not be able to host my own club meeting in my classroom, as a result.

I had a calm, professional conversation with my supervisor to voice my concerns, but I feel like it fell on deaf ears. She basically just kept repeating to me that "it's always been like this," as if that somehow makes it okay. She is just as complicit as the rest of leadership. I'm just not sure what to do and I am honestly dreading next year if this is how it's going to be. (I won’t even delve into the part about how the room is used for gross anatomy (cadaver) dissections year-round but isn’t built for that, and as a result involves continuous, noxious exposure to formaldehyde has.)


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Kiss her A
Old 05-20-2019, 02:11 AM
 
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It’s obvious she rules the roost and nothing is going to change. I would bring her treats, coffee, whatever I could do to butter her up. It will be far better to have her on your good side than fight a losing battle all year. Is it fair? Heck, no — but you do what you can to survive in a miserable situation.

I would also try to get it in writing that you won’t be in her classroom next year.

Good luck — it sounds like you are going to need it.
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Old 05-20-2019, 03:26 AM
 
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Amish
I agree with Gogogo suggestions.
Unfortunately a lot of us have been in situations like this
I had an aide like this for 3 years, loved by admin and would make critical comments when I was teaching. We shared the room and I was the head of the department but it was like she was and her room.
It left me traumatized for several years. I'm fine now and retired
Could you put up a portable divider to split the room in 1/2
In my situation that's how we had it and she was such a bitch that I was on Her side looking for something and she started screaming at me because I was on HER side!!!!!!
These type of people are bullies and they were like that as children.
Don't stay in that situation any longer than you have to
You are probably like me cooperative and non confronting
I will think of you prayers and hugs
Keep venting here and have someone not at work to vent with
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I feel for you
Old 05-20-2019, 03:41 AM
 
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I have had two coworkers who remind me of what you're describing. One still works with me and I'm supposed to help her after school today...hehe

I wish I had advice. I will say these personality types do not know what to do when someone all of a sudden tells them to back off. They depend on intimidation so when it doesn't work they actually don't know what to do.

I know it's easier said than done but it's something to think about.
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Overbearing coworker
Old 05-20-2019, 06:08 AM
 
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I have to agree with katieviolet. You need to have a come to Jesus meeting with her. My guess is no one has calmly, but emphatically, confronted her.

Something along the lines of:

“I get you have a long standing history with this school and your program is something we are proud of. However, we need to share this room. I promise not to touch/use your stuff, but I need space. Our contract states “access to room” for prep. (this could be a lie...check your contract).

I am honored to work with you (again a suck up lie), but I also need a bit of my own space.”


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Old 05-20-2019, 07:04 AM
 
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I agree with other posters that you need to sweet talk her and try to get on her good side (although not sure she has one). Yet you need to let her know that you will be coming in after school to set up for the following day. This is just part of working together and sharing the room.

Curious if the formaldehyde smell is toxic and harmful if it is there all year.
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It sounds like you teach
Old 05-20-2019, 07:36 AM
 
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science classes, which are often treated as a shortage area for teachers. Do any other schools in your area have a vacancy in your credentialed area? I'd be looking around for another position.

Failing that, I'd ask for a written agreement that you will get your own room next year for agreeing to share a room this year.

I imagine the administration is just hoping someone can endure her and are assigning someone they hope can manage that. I would also ask for an assigned room for preparation and club meetings in writing. You may have a bit of leverage to use right now--not as much as her, certainly.

It would be interesting to ask OSHA if frequent and prolonged exposure to formaldehyde is a health threat. Not as a report, just as an anonymous information request. Then decide what to do with the information.

If it is at some point appropriate, you might point out to administration that it is know throughout the school that they have ceded power to one teacher over the rest of the faculty.

I wish you luck. Use your sick leave wisely next year to keep yourself sane.
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Wait...what?!?!
Old 05-20-2019, 07:47 AM
 
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I just reread your post. Students are dissecting cadavers?!?! What grade is this????
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:29 AM
 
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Wow, thank you all SO much for the quick replies and helpful advice. I am glad to hear that I'm at least not the only person in this situation (although it unfortunately speaks volumes about the politics of working in education).

Gogogo & elepen: I have actually done nothing but be kind to her, and I think this is why my department chair wants me to be the one to share the room with her. I am indeed pretty easygoing and cooperative. I just feel like I need to draw the line at making sure I have enough space set aside for my students and having time to prep in the classroom, because I won't be able to succeed at my job if I can't. I don't want this person's unreasonable demands to cause me to not be able to do my job properly, because in the end that's only going to hurt me. My department chair is going to try to mediate a compromise between us if it comes to that.

Violet4: For sure, this teacher depends on intimidation. Unfortunately, it has always worked for her. I am the type of person who will always respond as kindly as possible, but I also refuse to be intimidated into not being able to do my job properly. It's just frustrating to even be in this situation.

Keltikmom: Agree wholeheartedly and am hoping to be able to have a civil conversation. I am willing to compromise, but she needs to be able to as well. My department expects everyone to collaborate and share, and it's unfair for her to be the exception.

It is high school, but it's a special course. The teacher has connections with a local medical school and runs a gross anatomy introductory program. It's so unique that the school uses it as a selling point (especially since school choice is a thing where I live).

Lynnteach2 & broomrider: Yup, science teacher here! I live in a large state, so there are usually other opportunities around. However, I work for a very well-known, prestigious district in the area that would benefit me in the future if I decide to advance my career and go into leadership. I would like to stay, if at all possible (and also because you never know if you're going to leave one place and end up somewhere worse). I do like the idea of trying to use next year as leverage for having my own room the year after. And believe me, leadership is very aware that they have ceded power to this one individual. They just don't want to deal with community backlash if this special program ends.

Last edited by amich; 05-20-2019 at 12:25 PM..
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Old 05-20-2019, 11:31 AM
 
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Quote:
She also doesn’t want anyone coming in the room during her special class,
Then she needs to stay out of the room during your classes.

I'd give her the room during her class and after school if she stayed out during my classes.


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Yikes!
Old 05-20-2019, 04:54 PM
 
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This set up sounds absolutely miserable. Put up with the short-term pain if it will actually get you ahead. Personally, I would probably look for a different position.
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Old 05-20-2019, 05:49 PM
 
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Sounds like you have option lines up for mediation to help you two negotiate as needed so I would focus on

1. Space issues
-if the current set up lack storage for your and your students things then it sounds like they need to provide you with a mobile cart for storage and place to put said mobile cart when her class is in session

2. Where/how to prep if you dont have access in the afternoons
I taught in a classroom that was used for afterschool homework club daily for a few years. I could never prep so that I could walk out of the door at night and come in to a perfectly set up classroom so I had improvise. I had storage bin that I would put everything into for my centers/activities. If I needed the table set a specific way with the prepped supplies I came in and drew a picture of what each table should look like on the board then student helper would go around get them all set up correctly at the start of the day. It was well organized and the tubs were numbers to go with a correspondingly number station. I set them up at home and brought them in each morning on a collapsible dolly that I kept in my trunk like this like this:
http://https://www.homedepot.com/p/Harper-175-lbs-Capacity-Aluminum-Folding-Hand-Truck-HMC5/202269728

It actually worked out fine

3. Where/how to hold your after school club obligations
-If it were me I was make it clear that if I don't have a classroom I would not be hosting a club next year. If they want to give this women the classroom after school then they should relieve you of additional duties.
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