How to Survive the School Year With an Ogre in the Front Office

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I was scrolling through Netflix recently when I happened across Shrek. A smile spread crept across my face and settled into my cheeks.

Watching Shrek and his family can make you forget that they’re, well, ogres. In folklore, ogres are far from loveable. They’re not even likable. They are outright scary! We run from ogres! But we can’t always escape them especially when the ogre (or ogress if it’s a female) moves from under the bridge and into the admin office of your school, and you’re forced to face the ogre every day. Some ogres yell; some ignore the hell out of you, and others make you feel so small that you want to disappear inside yourself.

It’s sad that ogres aren’t really like Shrek. Everybody likes Shrek because we forget that he’s an ogre. Many of us have faced an ogre or two in the office at one time or another in our career, and we’ve lived to tell the tale. Though it may not seem like it now, you too can survive an ogre/ogress of an administrator.

I remember a particular ogre at a school where I worked. He was immaculately dressed and quite the charmer, but he was also a tyrant–the Napoleon type. You never questioned him except to seek clarity. You arrived at staff meetings on time or before time or you’d be locked out. No one entered after him. Even if he wasn’t there yet (which was often), you dare not leave the room to pee or get a drink of water. You just had sit and wait until he got there because the meetings could not/would not be called to order by anyone except him.

Things were done his way. Period. You smiled and nodded at everything He said because He was God. I was a non-believer, but trust and believe that He had enough believers to reign supreme at that school! Everything anyone ever said was prefaced with, Mr. So-And-So said. Even when he got a promotion and moved on, (yea for me) his presence was still in the building.

ogre in the office cover image

He would walk into your classroom in the middle of a lesson and disrupt it because He could. He was in charge and He never let you forget it. I found it amusing that He had a picture of a pair of open hands posted on the door to His office–the hands of which could only be seen when the door was closed. And the door was closed a lot. I was glad when the door was closed and He was on one side and I was on the other–away from his reign of terror. So, I know what it means to face the ogre in the office. As unpleasant as it may be, it is not the end of the world.

With most of the school year behind you, you can make it to the end. You’re in the home stretch! If you dread Monday mornings or tremble in fear every time you encounter the ogre or ogress, here are a few suggestions on how to survive their grim presence. Following these simple suggestions, will get you through the remainder of the year. Whew! Then it’s summer break where you regroup and recoup your sense of self and be ready to begin anew or you find another job in a school unoccupied by an ogre.

1. Don’t give up your power.

Stop cowering in fear. It may look like an ogre, talk like an ogre, and breathe like an ogre, but beneath all that ugly-ogre-ness is still a human being. Remember that there is salt in their tears just like in mine and yours.

2. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Remember why you do this work. Put your energy into your students. When you’re so engrossed in engaging them,  you not only forget (even temporarily) about the ogre in the office,  you also feel good about your efforts with the students.

3. Leave it at the altar.

Give it all you’ve got while you’re there, but when it’s time to go home, leave it at school. Create a hard stop between your work day and home. Think about what you need to do to separate the two. Then do it. There is no need in taking it home because it will be there when you get there the next day.

4. Take time for yourself.

Whatever that means for you: indulge in a hobby, play with the dog, take a long walk. Whatever feeds your soul, just do it! Make the time to do something for you and that includes taking a day if that’s what you need.

5. Document! Document! Document!

Did I say document? There might come a time when you have to take action against the ogre because they’ve crossed the line and become a bully boss. When it’s more than just a snort or a growl, and you feel like you’re being picked on and/or singled out, you’ll need proof of bullying behaviors to take disciplinary action against your administrator. Sad, but true. Not everyone who has administrative credentials deserves to hold such a position if they abuse their power.

Have you faced an ogre in the office? What did you do? Do you have any advice to share?


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Teach4Life

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Teach4Life is a veteran educator who tries to find the humor in every situation. It's that old saying, "If you can laugh at it, you can live with it."

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