4 Professional Boundaries Principals Need to Consider

So this third grade teacher friended me on Facebook…

4 Professional Boundaries Principals Need To Consider

As an administrator, you are the official in the building. Being the official is not an easy job, especially when you are consistently pushed to your limits. When you are at work, you need to be levelheaded, professional, and reliable. Building good social boundaries will make that possible. These guidelines will help you maintain the kind of boundaries that will keep your relationship with colleagues healthy and productive.

1. Should a school leader accept friend requests on social media?

We’ve all been there: You open up Facebook and see a friend request from a colleague. You also see some other notifications: Your aunt has tagged you in a very embarrassing picture from your 13th birthday party. Next, you see that your college roommate shared an article on your wall with a heated political rant. Before you click “accept” on that request from a colleague, consider this: How comfortable are you with them scrolling through all your pictures and posts? And once you open the floodgates of friend requests, ask yourself: What will you do when a colleague who is challenging sends you a friend request?

If you hesitate to have your online activity scrutinized, avoid friending or accepting friend requests from colleagues. It goes without saying that friend requests from parents should also be politely declined. Don’t let the request hang there until it becomes awkward. Let your colleague know that you are keeping your personal and professional circles separate. An excellent middle-road solution would be to keep some social media channels strictly professional. LinkedIn and Twitter are great ways to curate professional content that is less vulnerable.

2. Is it okay for a principal to sit with teachers at lunch?

Everyone has ideas about where the principal should be eating their lunch. Some people seem to think that the teachers’ room or cafeteria is a place where your visibility matters the most. Others seem to stop talking completely when you put your tray down next to them. You don’t want to infringe on people’s downtime, but you don’t want to seem unfriendly.

Meals are a time for faculty to decompress, and that can be hard to do when the principal sits down next to you on Taco Tuesday. Choose one or two days of the week to go to the lunchroom. No one expects you to socialize at lunch every day of the week, but it is important to make an appearance sometimes. When you do make your way to lunch, make sure that you are in a good headspace to be social. No one wants to sit next to someone grumpy at lunch, especially when that someone is your boss.

3. What if teachers ask the principal to join them at happy hour after school?

A few times a semester, an invitation goes out to the faculty for happy hour. You feel awkward about being in this kind of social setting with your colleagues who are your direct reports.

You should absolutely go to happy hour with your colleagues. Connecting outside of school with people that you work with is a powerful way to tell them that they matter to you. Socializing with colleagues reminds everyone that you are all humans doing the best you can, and it’s a great way to deepen one-on-one relationships. However, commit to staying only for the first half-hour. Show up, have a beverage, but then leave soon after, so colleagues have time to let their hair down.

4. How do principals deal with reprimanding a teacher?

At some point, you will have to have a difficult and uncomfortable conversation with a colleague. When these conversations turn emotional or heated, it can be hard to know what to do the next time you see them.

It can take a lot of inner strength not to take a colleague’s behavior personally. However, remember: You are the official in the building. That means you must take the high road for the greater good. Even through difficulty, your relationship with the person who bit your head off needs to continue to grow. Take time to cool off and get your head straight. When you are ready, it is essential to loop back to the teacher and acknowledge the situation. Doing so will allow you both to move on, and it will help the relationship heal more quickly.

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Posted by Anne Rubin

Anne Gomez Rubin has been a dean and teacher in Minneapolis, MN, since 2016. She tweets about education, intersectional feminism, and tacos on Twitter at @annegrubin .

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