Even before the crazy COVID-19 days, teaching could be a tough gig. Low pay, long hours, high expectations, difficult parents … the list goes on. Some teachers have it a little worse than all the rest, though, because their principals just won’t give them a break. We asked our Facebook followers to share the ridiculous school rules that make their lives more difficult, and yikes, did they ever respond. Here are the best of the worst, and we swear they are all real (though we’re keeping them anonymous, of course).
1. Don’t even think about complaining
Positive attitudes go a long way; there’s no doubt. But there’s also a real benefit to blowing off a little steam, especially with your co-workers. Some principals really go out of their way to prevent that, though. “I worked for a school district once where the superintendent would not allow us to have a lounge/workroom because ‘Teachers just go in there to gossip,’” shared one beleaguered educator. (Come on, teachers’ lounges are about so much more than gossip. That’s also where the coffee maker is!)
Don’t try it at home, either. “When I was hired, I was told that I was not allowed to complain about ANYTHING work-related to anyone who did not work for the school… including my husband,” shared one teacher. Might want to keep an eye out for hidden cameras around the house.
2. Dehydration is part of the job
Who could possibly take away teachers’ #1 lifeline? “I had a principal that banned coffee,” a teacher told us. “The reasoning was if the students couldn’t have it, neither could we. I went to university for 5 years to become a teacher… I earned that coffee!” Another teacher said their principal was okay with coffee but no soda, again because students couldn’t have it. “I was livid. I have to have my Diet Coke in the morning!”
Some principals don’t make school rules about what you drink, but how you drink it. “All drinks had to be in a traditional coffee mug with no lid, even water. I don’t even know why but when someone’s water spilled on a computer, we were suddenly allowed to have water bottles with lids again.” All of these teachers can count themselves lucky, though, since one principal we heard about doesn’t allow their teachers to drink anything at all in the classroom. “No coffee, no soda, no water. Nothing.” So much for staying hydrated.
3. Crazy school rules apply to the parking lot, too
Teachers can’t even catch a break from crazy school rules in the parking lot. One school measures how far each car is from the lines, issuing nastygrams to those who don’t park perfectly. At another, teachers have to back into their parking spots each day (like teachers on their way into work don’t have enough to worry about already). And don’t try to get chatty in the parking lot at this school: “Our principal said staff couldn’t talk in the parking lot, like everyone does when they are arriving for work or leaving at the end of the day. She felt it would look like teachers were talking about her.”
It can’t get worse than that, certainly? Well, we learned about one school that doesn’t have a parking lot at all. Teachers have to park on the street and feed the meters all day.
4. Sign in on time, or else
A surprising number of schools require teachers to sign in at the office each morning. This can create plenty of problems. For instance, an awful lot of teachers often arrive before their administrators do. “We had to remember to interrupt our work in our classrooms and walk back to the office after the sign-in book was out,” reports one teacher. “Every teacher has to stop in the office and say hello to the principal before school starts,” says another. “I have kids in my classroom as early as an hour before school starts…he gets in a half hour later.”
One teacher reported not getting paid for the day if they didn’t sign in (we’re pretty sure that’s not legal). Another teacher once walked into school with her principal an hour early. “When I went into the office to sign in, she said, ‘Come back later; it’s not ready.’ I came back right before my duty started, and she marked me late!”
5. Latecomers will be shamed
Running late? Get ready to be shamed by… THE LATE BOOK. “Our secretary monitored the sign-in book,” one teacher shared. “At 7 a.m., she removed it and replaced it with the dreaded LATE BOOK. Staff waiting in line were required to put the reason for their late arrival. One friend wrote, ‘having sex with my husband.’”
Then again, who needs a late book when you can just be shamed in public? “I had a principal once question me angrily in front of my students when we arrived at the cafeteria for lunch, about what time I went to bed at night, because I was a couple minutes late that morning. This, after she yelled at me from the end of the building and said, ‘Nice of you to join us today!’ while I was talking to a parent at my classroom door. When I told her I didn’t feel the need to discuss what time I went to bed with her, she literally sent me to the office to have the VP grill me (on my lunch). Ended in me crying, and being sent back to my classroom of first graders after, AND I never got to eat lunch.”
And then there’s the school that wants you to plan your emergencies: “I had to leave during the day to pick up my injured child. I notified the front office staff, who arranged coverage for my class. The next day the principal announced a rule that all emergencies had to be cleared by her 24 hours in advance.” Um, what?
6. Staff meetings must be miserable
Speaking of running late, teachers at one school better be on time for their morning staff meeting. “Staff meetings started at 7:30 a.m. ON THE DOT. The principal watched the time on her phone and locked the door immediately when the time changed to 07:30:00. Then she proceeded to laugh at the teachers running across campus and encouraged us to laugh and jeer at them too. They were not allowed in and were later reprimanded for missing the meeting.”
While we’re all in favor of keeping meetings short, this seems a little excessive: “During district staff meetings a superintendent insisted that, instead of clapping your hands together multiple times in applause for any reason, we could only clap once. She claimed clapping wasted too much time!”
7. Oh, and don’t stay late either
There’s never enough time in the day, right? Well, that’s just too bad! “I was once told by the other teachers to stop working in my classroom on weekends to get caught up, or I’d be reported to the district for working after hours,” one teacher confided.
“I had a principal yell at me for putting in too many (unpaid) evening hours,” shared another. “The morning after, I ran an extremely successful bookfair/carnival. Spending weeks of working with junior high volunteers, who design and build all themed games for the younger students. A great learning experience of creativity, charity, kindness, and leadership went overlooked.”
8. Soap is more dangerous than germs
Okay, these school rules are pretty hard to imagine in a wash-your-hands-every-10-minutes COVID world, but they really did happen once upon a time. “We had all the hand sanitizer in the school taken away because it is flammable,” says one teacher. “I pointed out that so is all the paper and a very good reason to not allow students to have matches!”
This one is even more difficult to understand. “In my daughter’s kindergarten classroom, they weren’t allowed soap (in case the kids ate it?!),” a reader shared. “She would bring it and hide it from the ‘Health & Safety’ inspectors.” Hm, maybe just teach kids not to EAT SOAP?
We also loved the story of the principal whose office wall adjoined the staff bathroom, so she used it as an opportunity to monitor paper towel usage. If she heard someone “pumping” the paper towel dispenser more than twice, she’d scold them for wasting paper. One teacher grew so tired of it, she started using the student bathrooms.
9. Copier privileges are given to those who deserve them (so, nobody)
Copiers have always been contentious, especially as schools try to save money. One principal requires teachers to prove their copies are “academically beneficial.” Another allots only $20 per teacher per year for copier costs. And then there’s this: “Our admin used to give us each one case of paper each semester, and if we ran out we had to buy our own. What usually ended up happening was teachers would go into other teachers’ rooms and steal reams of paper. I always kept my case of paper in the trunk of my car, as did many of my colleagues.”
Then there’s the laminator. Many teachers report having to give all laminating tasks to a trained aide. That may sound okay, but what if the aide is only there one day a week… or month? Or has a serious power trip going? “Our aide would quiz you on why you needed it laminated and you had to promise to use the item for at least three years!”
10. Pretend bad behavior doesn’t exist
More than one educator noted that they’re not allowed to grade or write with red pens—it stresses kids out. And don’t try to get parents involved. “We were not allowed to call or even email parents. We were allowed to communicate POSITIVE NOTES ONLY by writing in the student’s agenda.” Hopefully not too positive, though, since one teacher told us, “I could only use two exclamation points when writing notes and things to parents. Don’t want to show too much excitement.”
All kids need a period of adjustment when school starts in the fall, but how long should it last? At one school, “teachers cannot write any disciplinary referrals or give suspensions before Christmas. Consequently, by Halloween, the students are running the school, not the staff.” So much for behavior having consequences.
11. Get ready for synchronized teaching
Brace yourselves for one of the nuttiest school rules for teachers we’ve ever heard: “Every teacher in a grade level had to be teaching the same thing at the exact same time. The logic was if a student needed to be moved, they would walk in where they left off.” Maybe that doesn’t seem too bad? How about this twist: “When we were observed, if the admin left my room and went into another class of the same grade level, the admin should be able to hear the same lesson continued as if we were on the same script. BUT we were not allowed to share lesson plans.”
On that same note, one teacher says, “If you put anything up on the wall in your class, the same thing had to go up in all the other grade-level rooms. It also had to be in the same spot so if students moved rooms they knew exactly where to look.” Just… wow.
12. The principal gets what the principal wants
We respect authority, we really do. But some school rules just seem so arbitrary. For instance, one principal requires all window shades in the entire building to be at the same height. Another teacher reports a principal who regularly came in and took pictures of her messy desk, then tested her. “She would ask for random items that she thought I wouldn’t be able to find. I have a filing system that is called ‘If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist’ so everything is out on my desk, but I can find it. Put it in a neat file in the cabinet and it is gone for life…”
Here’s one last nutty gem. “I had one principal that was an extreme micro manager. She had these rules about data charts. They had to be specifically color coded. Whatever, fine. I forgot to color code and got a nasty email about efficiency. Whatever! Okay, I color coded. Got it over and done with. Then ANOTHER nasty email. I didn’t use the correct shade of blue, red, or green and I needed to drop what I was doing and fix it ASAP. So I put it off. I got so many nasty emails it bordered harassment. All because the shades I used were not the principal’s preferred shades.”
Need a place to vent about crazy school rules or other teacher challenges? Join the WeAreTeachers Helpline group on Facebook.
Plus, be sure to check out these Ridiculous Dress Code Rules for another laugh or two.