Document Everything in Writing
Keep written notes regarding anything that occurs during the school year that might threaten your job. That way, you'll protect your job against any students, parents, teachers, or administrators who try to get you fired for petty, dishonest, or vindictive reasons.
Here's a case in point: During a student-teacher conference, you tell a student she must improve her math work. She retorts, “I hate you! You're so unfair!” Shocked, you remind the student that you will not tolerate such disrespect. After the student departs, write some notes while the meeting's fresh in your mind. A student this insolent probably has insolent parents as well, and they'll probably demand a meeting with the principal. Your notes will refresh your recollection before any such meeting. Take notes as follows:
Write one page of notes, unless you feel more are absolutely necessary.
Date your notes, because dates are crucial to refuting a variety of spurious charges.
Write the name of the counseled student, conference time, location, and purpose.
Record the most important topics discussed and actions taken.
Record any other notes that might bolster your version of events.
No one, not even your principal, may read your notes (except for an attorney, if matters go that far). Your notes are strictly for your locked classroom filing cabinet or your home office.
Here's another instance where documentation might come in handy: One day, your principal calls you to his office and admits that he envies your superior education. Worse, he adds, “And I've heard you're forty! I wouldn't have hired you if I'd known you were so old!”
Afterward, jot down some notes about this disturbing meeting. Also, consider acknowledging the meeting by writing a letter and delivering it to your principal, while retaining a proof of delivery. If the conversation eventually becomes disputed, your letter might save your job. But note that events can escalate uncontrollably if you initially deliver an acknowledgment letter. Before acknowledging any conversation, seek professional advice from your association.
If you want to keep your documents truly secure, save your dimes and buy a fireproof filing cabinet. The best cabinets are rated by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a nonprofit testing facility, at Class 350 — meaning your documents can actually survive a one-hour fire.
In short, don't assume that after you've had a rancorous conference everything will be fine. If a student is disrespectful during counseling, her subsequent tattling to her parents will probably be distorted. Or, if a parent is emotional during a conference, she'll probably contact your principal eventually. And if your principal reprimands you verbally, he'll probably do so in writing as well, and put the materials in your personnel file. Document everything to protect your job.