When I was in elementary school, my father’s profession led us to living in several locations every 12-18 months which meant I enrolled in new school in a new city, state, or country every school year through 5th grade. I am used to being the “new kid.” In every school, there was always a group of people willing to get to know you, establish friendship, and help you get to know the ins and outs of the campus.
When you work in a public school district as a therapist, you are often assigned to more than one campus. Many of us are reassigned to new campuses every 2-5 years. I returned to an elementary school setting after 10 years in a secondary setting. I love working with kids of all ages, so I knew I would enjoy working with younger students; however, elementary teachers and administrators are an entirely different entity.
There is a great deal of micromanaging in elementary schools. Administrators want to know every little detail about teacher’s classrooms, programs, and student performance. They want to know about every lesson plan, conflict, celebration, project planning, or meeting that occurs between staff, students, and parents. This is understandable since they are responsible for how their teachers educate students and communicate with parents and other professionals., but do they really need to know every detail? I mean details like what time you went to the restroom, entered a classroom, attended an IEP meeting, etc… They want to be involved in every single meeting that occurs on their campus or have someone tell them the results of the meeting. Teachers prefer to go straight to their principals regarding any issues, concerns, or conflicts with staff instead of talking directly to the person(s) involved in the subject matter. Secondary teachers and administrators appear more relaxed or easy going, are less likely to overreact, collaborate and support each other across academic departments, and prefer to speak to you directly before approaching someone on a higher pay scale.
There appears to be more of a Mean Girl mentality in the elementary setting compared to the secondary setting. Remember the bossy girl in elementary class? The one who tattled the most, got the kids to rally behind her, and preferred to be the center of attention? It turns out that some of those girls grew up to be Mean Women and became teachers. Not all teachers fall into this category, however I do see this more at the elementary level.
Earlier this year, another therapist and I scheduled a meeting with on teacher to explain therapy service delivery systems and answer her questions about speech and language therapy. It was supposed to be a meeting between the three of us. At the meeting, two other teachers joined us and we were told that the principal may pop in. We were surprised, especially when the meeting became an ambush. It turned into a personal attack on me. My partner was floored and observed the attack in silence and amazed at their unprofessional behavior. I kept calm and listened to all kinds of “problems” they had with my therapy schedule and how I provide therapy. To add to the situation, I learned that they had been e-mailing the principal about their issues. The principal never contacted me but contacted my supervisor. By the time I heard from my supervisor, the “concern” was exaggerated and consisted of misinformation. This same group of teachers, refuse to tell us when they will be attending a field trip or special program, invite us to lesson planning meetings or team lunches, inform us when they are meeting with parents. They e-mail the principal if you were 5 minutes late to their classroom or CC the principal to remind you that an IEP meeting is scheduled. On more than one occasion they will tell you how much they miss the therapist who was there last year and wish they would come back to their campus.
Lately, the Mean Girls have been quiet, which led me to assume that things were okay and that all issues were resolved. My supervisor hadn’t heard from the principal in a few months, so she thought things were going well. We were both surprised when the principal was asked her to place me at another campus next year because I am “too seasoned” for her campus. In the 27 years I have been in my profession, I have never experienced this.