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Managing Teacher's Complaints

Here are some of the complaints from her staff that a director hears in any given school year:

  • We are out of  [name your favorite] supply. (Told five minutes before said supply is needed)

  • X parent:

  • picks up too late/drops off too early;

  • hasn’t bathed the child;

  • won’t return emails or phone calls;

  • emails or calls too frequently;

  • chooses to talk to one teacher over another.

  • Teacher X won’t share supplies.

  • Teacher X leaves her mess out and clutters up communal spaces.

  • Teacher X hid the measuring cups.

  • I do not understand my retirement benefits.

  • I cut my hand while trying to cut a paper tube in half, and now I need to go to the hospital.

  • I need a day off (requested 3 hours before she is scheduled to be in the classroom).



A director’s job is to provide “surface support,” to use a scuba analogy, to her teachers and staff. Surface support means that she provides whatever a teacher needs, within reason, so the teacher can be effective in, and for, her class.

There are a couple of challenges to being surface support. The first is that the director must decide, usually in the moment, whether or not the complaint is just a venting session or if there is a real need for some action. The second challenge is that the requests must be balanced against the school’s budget, the needs of other teachers, the needs of the families, and the needs of the children or licensing/legal standards. Sometimes these decision trees must be navigated quickly. And always the director must navigate decision making without complaints.

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