Warning: Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy

This week, my staff will be returning to prepare for the coming school year. I have been back for a couple of weeks now – gearing up for staff and students to return. Every year, I am excited for the new school year to begin – I just imagine the possibilities for great things to occur, and look forward to seeing many of them come to fruition as the year unfolds.

I have enjoyed hearing stories of summer exploits from my staff as they have dropped in – from weddings to new babies; camping trips to college trips. I was disturbed, however, by a report from one staff member.

As she was getting her “back to school” haircut her hairdresser asked if she was ready for school to begin. She shared her excitement for the new year, and talked about going in to work that day to get her office set up. The hairdresser then said “You are the only teacher I have talked to lately that is happy to be going to work.” What a sad statement.

This is a difficult year for teachers – all around the country – in Idaho, each district had to decide what to “cut” – salaries, days, programs, etc. I understand that teachers are frustrated – and feel beat up by politicians and policy makers. BUT we need to remember what we are here for: OUR STUDENTS.

I remind my staff that we are our own PR department. Our responses about our school is what parents and community listen to – it forms their opinion of us. If we aren’t excited to get to school and make learning happen, why should they send us their kids? If we don’t keep our passion, how will we be able to instill it in our students?

We need to remember that our students are not to be punished for decisions made by politicians who don’t know them. Our students count on us to be on our best game. Saying things like “I am not going to put in one minute over contract time because….” doesn’t hurt the politicians, it hurts the students and gives fodder to the politicians to say we are “lazy”. I do NOT know a lazy educator.

I know that times are tough – and they may get tougher. Don’t be your own worst enemy – don’t take those frustrations out on our students. BE EXCITED to start the year – I know I am.

I plan to make this the best year ever!


  1. Thanks Janet! I am sure it helps your staff to have a leader with a positive outlook. We (educators) have the most important job in the world! Have a great year!

    August 31, 2010
  2. Jesse said:


    Thanks, I needed this. Today was my first day with staff as an assistant principal and it was a long day. I want to be able to help everyone, but I am still learning and it is frustrating to not always be able to. I am excited though, and I had forgotten until I read this. Thanks a lot, it really picked me up

    August 31, 2010
  3. What an excellent reminder for all of us in education. Thank you :)!

    August 31, 2010
  4. Lyn said:

    I appreciate your thoughts about how we are “our own PR department.” I have found this to be so true. In a school with such a tight-knit community, one negative comment about a grade level, teacher, or student has the potential to severely impact an organization. Everyone needs a place to vent about their work-related frustrations, but that should never take place in public. It’s a detriment to students. We need to exude positivity!!
    I wish you an amazing year!!

    August 31, 2010
  5. Dave Meister said:

    Great post. I think we as the building administrator need to help set the tone. If we complain about central office or something someone in the community said, our staff picks up on that and follows our lead. We need to be positive and shine the light on the staff who exhibit the positive about what we do for our learning communities! Thanks again for your thoughts! Have a great school year!

    August 31, 2010
  6. Let me push back a little: If we never express frustration with the “way that things are” to those working beyond education, isn’t it likely that things will never change?

    The sad reality is that everyone—parents, policymakers, community leaders—rely on the altruism of teachers way, way too much. We make the cuts that you talk about easy because we’re always willing to do a little more or go a little farther on behalf of our students without extra compensation. And while that heroism is noble, it enables policymakers to make cuts without thinking twice about it.

    Isn’t it possible that being a bit more outspoken about the very real challenges of our job might elevate the idea that we CAN’T keep doing more with less? Sure, that message has to be delivered professionally—-but if it is never delivered because we’re “keeping a stiff upper lip,” can we really be surprised when decision-makers underinvest in our schools year after year?


    September 2, 2010
    • Janet Avery said:


      I appreciate the pushback – and I understand what you are saying. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe that educators definitely should speak up about policies that are changing our lives.

      However, I think there is a time and a place for all public comments. We must be careful and considerate of our audience. Complaining and coming across in a negative manner will not make the positive changes we need to see in education policies. Not being excited for our students to come back at the beginning of a school year comes across as complaining – not taking a stand.

      Again – I do appreciate your pushback and totally understand your side of this issue – I agree that we do need to speak up. We just need to do it at the appropriate time and with the appropriate audiences.


      September 5, 2010

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