My para just lodged a formal complaint about me. :(

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Jerseygirlteach, Nov 15, 2014.

  1. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    Nov 15, 2014

    I'm really upset and nervous. Sorry in advance. I know this is very long.

    At my school, we have a teacher rep and a para rep. They are supposed to be intermediaries for teachers and paras who have an issue with the administration. However, I found out on Friday that my para has been complaining about me to the para rep numerous times and apparently the para rep is going to or already has informed my principal who will be calling my para and me in for a meeting on Monday to address my para's issues. I was not supposed to be informed of my para's complaints as they are supposed to be confidential. However, someone did not want me to be completely blindsided so I was given a heads up.

    I don't know the exact nature of the complaints other than I'm apparently "rude" and "abrupt" when speaking with her. Also, I don't give her her own personal copy of my lesson plans. Instead, I keep a lesson plan binder in a central location in the room and that's disrespectful because, according to her, I should be giving her her own personal copy of my lesson plans rather than sharing my binder.

    For the record, she's right. I am kinda rude speaking with her. My tone is respectful, but I don't look her in the eye and I only speak with her when absolutely necessary. Why? Well, to be honest, she has lost my respect. She comes upstairs 10 minutes later than she is supposed to every day, and extends her lunch every day, refuses to stay a second past her contracted time even though she's not supposed to leave until the bus picks up the kids. She also disappears from the classroom without a word, and spends much of her time sitting and waiting for instruction rather than being the least bit proactive.

    Also, when I do speak with her, she makes me so uncomfortable. She tends to just look at me in response or give me a one or two word answer. She obviously is unhappy with me and it feels so awkward talking to her.

    So now my stomach is in knots about this. I know I've complained here about most of the things I mentioned above (sorry to seem to be doing that again), but I haven't complained to admin because I live in paranoid fear of a nonrenewal and I don't want to do anything that makes me seem difficult or whiney. Obviously, my para does not have this same fear and she's apparently been complaining about me relentlessly and in lieu of coming to me first with any issues.

    What should I do? Of course, I immediately drafted a document with a detailed list of all my issues and will present it to my principal. However, I am not supposed to know about any of this. WWYD? I am considering going straight to my principal first thing Monday morning with my "complaint document" and letting her my principal know my side of the story - rather than waiting around to be called for a meeting. Or, should I wait to be called for the meeting? Note - I'm not going to get anyone in trouble for giving me the heads up. That person does not care at all if it is found out that she told me.

    So, what should I do? Please help. I'm so scared of anything jeopardizing my job. :(
     
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  3. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I would act like I wasn't given the heads up. I'd also look over the document about your complaints, and try to memorize everything (I'm sure you do know the issues you are having, but just brush up on it so you don't leave anything out). Don't take the document with you, but verbally present your issues from memory, and act like you didn't know about the meeting.
     
  4. janlee

    janlee Devotee

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    I would go to the meeting as if you knew nothing. As soon as the issue arises that a complaint has been issued against you I would immediately ask that your union rep be called to the meeting. This is your right. Do not say anything. It can be used against you. If your rep is unable to get to the meeting ask for it to be rescheduled. Do not say anything without representation. I would not show anything to your principal.
     
  5. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    Nov 15, 2014

    As hard as it will be, try to not turn the meeting into all your issues with her. It could look like you have issues because she does, if that makes sense. Professionally give a response to each issue as it is addressed. Also, determine which issues you can compromise on so you appear to be a team player. For example, while I agree that she should be able to use the shared binder for lesson plans, you could agree to make her her own copy. While it's not something you should have to do, it is an issue that can be resolved.

    For the record, I absolutely hate conflict and will do pretty much anything to avoid it, so take my advice with a grain of salt. :)
     
  6. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Nov 15, 2014

    One thing that jumped out at me... don't bring up her leaving at contracted time. Maybe it's different for you, but in my district, paras are hourly employees, and suggesting they be expected to stay after contract hours would be considered a major offense.
     
  7. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    Nov 15, 2014

    Thank you for the responses.

    I'm pretty sure my principal will know by Monday that I already know about the meeting. The person who told me about it is pretty close to my principal. I don't think it will appear genuine if I pretend I didn't know about it. Also, that person directly advised me to have my issues in writing, so now - based on this advice - I feel a bit conflicted.

    I understand what you're saying agdamity, but in my mind, there's no way she's getting out of this meeting without my issues being raised. I am livid that she would go over my head without sitting down and talking things over with me first - especially since I have been keeping quiet as she takes advantage of me and my students on a daily basis. As far as I'm concerned, it's on. I will frame it as though my issues with her are probably some of the source of the tension in the room, but I am definitely raising my issues now.

    gr3teacher - paras in my district are contracted employees. They make a relatively high salary in my district. For instance, any para who would leave my district to take a teaching position at a local private school would most likely be taking a significant pay cut. Also, all paras and teachers have been told by my principal that we share the responsibility of supervising students until the bus comes. My para feels that this is in violation of her contract so she refuses to do so despite what my principal has said.
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Nov 15, 2014

    Frame whatever you say in terms of the impact on your students rather than on you...how her lateness and often leaving the room impacts instruction/kids learning, bus duty is a student safety issue...etc.:2cents:
     
  9. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Czacza has the perfect suggestion for how to frame your response. Make the issue student-centered, not you vs. her.
     
  10. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    I agree as well and plan to do so. Thank you.

    One more thing - she's not getting a personal copy of my lesson plans that she can keep. I spend several hours a week writing them and I'm not just giving them to her in a way that she could take home and copy. No. She supposedly has some ambition to be a teacher and I don't want her using my plans. If she treated me with respect, then this wouldn't be a problem. However, this is not the case.
     
  11. Securis

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    I would consider what your purpose might be. Are you interested in "winning a fight" or are you interested in creating a bridge for a harmonious rest of the year? I totally agree with making it a student impact issue but keep in mind that you may be working with this para for the rest of the school year. I would also try to open room for reconciliation so you can get things done without the hassle cropping up again.
     
  12. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    This.

    The first thing my P would ask is why your issues weren't brought up before. I would be prepared to answer that. Otherwise you may seem petty/seeking revenge.

    The contract time thing is a union issue. I wouldn't be happy often being forced to stay past my contracted time.

    Just remember to stay calm! Everything will hopefully work out!
     
  13. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    Actually, I'm most interested in this not resulting in my principal having a negative opinion of me. As much as I would like to have a harmonious relationship with my para, I think it might be too far gone for that. I'll settle for professionalism.

    I know my principal will ask me this. I plan on stating the truth - I'm relatively new and I don't want to make waves and be seen as difficult or a complainer. So, I tried to let things go and just go with the flow.

    The contract time is a union issue - I agree. Her contracted time is the same as mine. I'm not happy about the fact that I'm asked to stay past my contracted time (although I would be staying anyway, just getting work done in my room) but I do it because I was requested to do so by my principal and it is necessary for the students to be supervised. My para doesn't seem to share my feelings about this and leaves despite the students' needs and my principal's instructions. The other teachers and paras switch off so that the teachers stay some of the times and the paras stay other days. She will not switch off with me so I stay every day and she stays zero days.
     
  14. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I'd rethink this statement. You may think you tried to let things go and just go with the flow, but upon your own admission, you became rude with her and you continually resent her not staying late and calling in sick on days she is supposed to stay late for evening events. Since your actions don't match the sentiment you are trying to convince your administrator you are adhering to, you may be worse off by saying you were trying to go with the flow. If admittedly being rude is going with the flow, what would you be like if you decided to not go with the flow?

    I'm not saying you don't have some real issues with her taking longer lunches, being on the computer when she shouldn't be, and not being as proactive as you need her to be, but some of the issue you have with her you have no control over. Also, being rude doesn't fix the issues. It just causes more problems. So, in addition to not really letting things go, your administrator sees that you allow issues to impact how you interact with your para.

    I suggest you think very hard about what you say and what it really means.
     
  15. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Nov 15, 2014

    Are you both hourly employees?
     
  16. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    This is a very nice way to look at it, but I'd be concerned that the para's already turned it into a fight, and has no worries about how it will affect the students (b/c if she did care, would she really be leaving before the kids were picked up?).
     
  17. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    When I read the original post, my initial thought was that my admin would wonder why I hadn't reported these issues if they were that egregious.


    I agree with all of this, especially the suggestion at the end.
     
  18. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    I am not going to be popular saying this, but your lesson plans, in virtually every district, belong to the district. That is why many teachers share as readily as they do. My mentor had a complex lesson for honors biology that she had gotten a grant for. When she wanted to put in on TPT, she was informed that the district owns that intellectual product and properties. I might add, they loved this teacher, but they were adamant.

    Your goal is to be renewed. You will be a better teacher next year than this year, and your plans will change. I am going to suggest that you lose the attitude about your plans, and just know that if you live to teach another year, you will almost certainly write better plans. You are scared and still you are reacting with anger that can be used against you, since most of us show more than we want when we are angry.

    Request your union rep, absolutely. If the para is contracted and union, she already may have gone that route. Your goal should be mediation, not revenge or retribution. Do keep your comments focused exclusively on the students and their welfare. If both of you are contracted to leave before the students are picked up, that is a different matter that really doesn't belong in this discussion. Perhaps you can get comp time for having to work beyond your scheduled time to leave, perhaps she could do the same. That isn't your decision to make, but may be a reasonable solution to explore since the district has a real problem with students still present and no staff to be responsible for them. Once again, this is a union rep thing.

    Fear makes you defensive, and your instincts are to prove you are justified, when you aren't. Instead of being passively aggressive, you should have been seeking ways to fix the problems. You're not a bad person, but you do lack some skills in dealing with a coworker who has the right to be treated respectfully, as do you. I suggest that you actually reflect on the situation and consider what you can do to improve the working relationship - that is a sign of maturity and a recognition that whatever else is going on, the students must come first.

    I hope you can find a way to get some relaxation this weekend, but it will be hard. Restrain your anger, listen politely, and use your union rep to run interference for you.

    Good luck.
     
  19. Kaley12

    Kaley12 Companion

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    Nov 15, 2014

    Has she ever brought up this issue with you before, or is this the first time it's been brought up to your attention. If she's never brought it up to you before now, I would perhaps use this as a key defence during the meeting. For example, say that you didn't realize how much certain things were bothering her and you wish she would have discussed it with you so that you could have resolved things sooner without it getting to this point. This makes it clear that she never tried to work through this issue with you, and that you want to resolve things maturely and efficiently (instead of going through this formal complaint process if possible).

    As for whether or not you were rude - I would be honest but be clear that you haven't done anything out of line. Being 'short' with someone is rude, yes, but it's not like you have crossed any lines or been inappropriate. You can say how some of your own personal frustrations about her own behaviors may have seeped through in the way you talk to her and that's what she's picked up on. That would also open up the door to discuss these issues (as I'm sure the principal would ask you to elaborate) without it looking like you are just saying things to retaliate. Like others said, make sure it reflects how it affects the students and isn't in their best interest.

    I'm sorry you have to go through this. i really have an issue with people who go above people's head to the higher ups to complain about something without so much as bringing it up first to the party involved. Hope everything goes well for you.
     
  20. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    But pointing out the fact that the para had problems with the OP and didn't try to work it out with the OP and turning around and defending ones self for being rude by saying OP had problems with what the para was doing and didn't try to work things out with her doesn't sit well. It is an "in my defense she didn't try to work things out with me and in my defense she was doing things that frustrated me". It doesn't work even moreso when several of the things that irritate the OP are things the admin knows about (late bus issue and sick day issue) and has decided for a reason unknown to the OP to accept that the para does this. That will smack the OP harder than anything if she brings it up and if she doesn't she will continue to be resentful.
     
  21. MissJill

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    Is the para in your union or do they have a separate union? To me this is incredibly odd that they would go to administration about a teacher. I hope all goes well.
     
  22. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    I can't remember if you are a first year teacher or not. Working with paras can be very difficult.
     
  23. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    My opinion, for as little as it is worth, is that you take a humble approach during the meeting. You WERE wrong to be rude to your para. You should have taken the bull by the horns when these problems started to arise.

    That being said, you shouldn't miss an opportunity to voice your concerns and to seek guidance on how to handle the teacher/para dynamic. In my world YOU, as the teacher, are to call the shots in the classroom. You have authority.

    I think you would best be served by stating something like "She is correct, I may have been rude in some of my dealings with her. For that I apologize. I should have openly addressed my concerns about her performance and not let my frustration get the better of me." Then lay out some plans you have to make sure that this doesn't happen again. Will you and your para meet on a regular basis? Is there five minutes where the kids are in specials, for instance, where you two can discuss the plans for the week and you give her feedback on her performance?
     
  24. LouiseB

    LouiseB Cohort

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    I've worked with numerous paras and when I started at one school, I found that this para had some peculiar things that she wanted to do and how she wanted to do them. I went along with her for the first few months. I had been talking with my sped supervisor once the problems began as to what I needed to do to make things go well. I had tried things that had worked previously with other paras and I needed some advice as to what to do with this para. And then I found out more things that let me know that the problems were the para and not me. This para had basically been on her own and doing whatever she wanted for two years. Year one the teacher had some health issues and missed many days. This teacher began the next school year but had to resign a few months into the school year. The school just tried to "limp"" along using others on staff to fill this position. They then hired someone second semester who really didn't know sped and didn't care what the para did. So when I came along and had expectations, the para wanted to do what she wanted to do which meant what she had done for two years. Later I found out that she had been placed with other teachers in previous years but moved because those teachers complained about the para. At the end of that year, the para was asked to leave the school and the para blamed me for her loss of job. It wasn't me at all as they had been thinking of firing her for years. Maybe this is the same situation??
     
  25. heatherberm

    heatherberm Cohort

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    Agreed. It definitely sounds like you have a lot of valid complaints, but quite honestly, it sounds like your para has valid complaints too. You admit yourself to being rude and short which is never going to help any situation. And while it might be petty of her to demand individual copies of lesson plans, I think it's also petty of you to not just provide them for her, especially if you want her to be involved with the academics in any way. That just doesn't seem like a hill worth dying on to me.

    The advice to keep everything student-focused is good advice. If your para is determined to make it more personal and you stay above that, your principal should notice that.

    In the case of this particular para, sure, it might be an issue of her not caring. But I'd agree with the poster who said this is really a separate issue and might be best left out of the discussion with the principal. If the paras are being asked to stay past their contracted time to sit with kids who haven't been dismissed yet, that's not right. It might be inconvenient that the para is leaving every day and I know part of the reason the OP is upset is because other classrooms have worked out a rotating schedule, but I have a harder time faulting the para on this one. And whether anyone considers it right or wrong, the bottom line is, if the para is leaving when her contract says she can leave, I'm not sure there's really anything the principal can do about it anyway. For the purposes of this meeting, I'd focus on the in-class relationship
     
  26. comaba

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    I wouldn't admit to being rude, at least not outright. I would say that you've noticed tension between you when you speak to each other and assumed it was related to the issues you've addressed with her (if you've addressed them).

    Really, a lot depends on whether or not you've ever talked to her about being late and whatever the other problems are.
     
  27. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think your issue of having to say after while waiting for a bus has been discussed here before. IMO, I don't think anyone should have to do that, I think it's an admin problem, and I certainly don't think you can blame her for leaving at contracted hours. Just because others are willing to do that, doesn't mean she should have to.
     
  28. greendream

    greendream Cohort

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    Same here. Don't say that you were intentionally rude...
     
  29. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    ICAM. If Admin is asking the staff to "violate" their contract time by staying after; it is not the OP's job to enforce Admin's demands.

    Also, OP, how you behave, act and deal with your Para from this point on will be viewed with a more critical eye by Admin; give them no reason to question any of your actions. Personally, I would kill my Para with kindness and respect (even if it is fake) and show that you are too mature/professional to hold grudges (even if you're not).

    Good Luck!!!
     
  30. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Jerseygirlteach...I hope your meeting successfully solves the problems you are facing. Please keep us updated.
     
  31. Rox

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    You can certainly say that you wish the para had addressed these issues with you directly, and that this (through whoever you heard it from) is the first time you are hearing these complaints.

    I think it is ridiculous to have to make a copy of lesson plans for a para. We have plenty of work to do each day, this is not a necessity. If she wants a copy, she can take it out of your binder, make a copy, and put your copy back in the binder. But that is just my opinion.

    You can ask her for specific examples of things you have done that are rude or disrespectful in her eyes. Ask her for specific examples of what you can do instead. For example, she can say "On Friday, January 1, you came into the room and didn't say 'good morning'. Instead, I'd like you to say good morning or some other greeting". Write them down and say you will be willing to make this change. If she makes a blanket statement like "You're rude all the time", I wouldn't accept that.
     
  32. heatherberm

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    From the original post and a couple of follow-ups, it sounds like the OP doesn't want the para to have copies of the lesson plans period. It's not an issue of not wanting to make the copies, it's an issue of not wanting the para to have copies at all. Which is, I think, a little silly. It's those kind of unimportant power struggles that can make an already rockey relationship even worse.

    I hope the meeting went well and was productive. I've been on both sides of the para-teacher relationship and they can definitely be a tough balancing act when the personalities involved don't naturally mesh.
     
  33. hbcaligirl1985

    hbcaligirl1985 Cohort

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    Nov 18, 2014

    How did this meeting go?
     
  34. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    I'm hoping all went well :)
     
  35. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    How did it go??
     
  36. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    She's been on, but hasn't posted yet. I hope all went well and that she'll share with us soon.
     
  37. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    Thank you for your concern. :) I just want to clarify that when I said I was “rude”, I didn’t mean cruel or insulting or even terse. I meant I avoided speaking to her unless absolutely necessary. Also, the reason I never went to my principal about all these issues is because I firmly believe that it was my responsibility to talk to my para first before going over her head. I would never do that to someone without giving them a chance to correct themselves (and I’m still very offended that she did that to me). Plus, I meant what I said about not wanting to make waves. I wasn’t intentionally “rude” to her and I really was just trying to go with the flow.

    Anyway, the meeting never actually happened, but I couldn’t just let it go so I went to my principal directly who already knew, of course, the nature of my para’s complaints. I knew that I was advised here not to admit to being rude, but once I start talking, everything always comes out. :) My principal seemed to side with me and I said I would speak to her about the issues. However, I’m not sure what happened without my knowledge, but many of the issues seem to have “self-corrected.” I have no idea how or why.

    On my end, I’ve being trying to avoid any further “rudeness” and I’m really going to try to be more assertive in the future when issues arise. For those of you that find it easy to manage paras, kudos to you. I’ve talked with several teachers and we all find this uncomfortable. It’s not always easy to be assertive with someone you have to work very closely with day in and day out – especially when that person is your own age or older. But I’m going to try.

    I still have a little anxiety about this, but it seems like the situation is under control and I don’t really expect any negative repercussions on my end. I hope not anyway.
     
  38. jojo808

    jojo808 Comrade

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    Nov 22, 2014

    Thanks for the update--It seems like everything is working out. :)
     
  39. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I'm sorry you went through this, but I agree with others that it sounds as if you were equally responsible for the tension between the two of you. I'm glad you had a chance to meet with your principal and give your side of the story. That should help relieve at least some of the frustration you've had.

    Several years ago, I had a coworker (not in the teaching field) that was trying to undermine me with the boss and make me look "bad". We had a new boss in our department and this guy was going out of his way to tell the boss how "great" he was and how "bad" I was. This really got to me for awhile and I ended up doing the same thing. When this guy would come out of the boss' office, I would go in and basically say, "I don't know what he said, but all of it was a lie. Here's what HE does when you're not looking."

    We also reached a point where we did not speak to each other any more than necessary and the stress in workplace (as well as my personal stress) was going through the roof. Finally, I reminded myself that the boss was new. He didn't know either of us, so he couldn't be certain which one of us was telling the truth about the other. Once I tried to view it from the boss' perspecive, I realized the best thing for ME to do was let my WORK speak for itself. I would SHOW the boss what kind of worker I was, instead of running to TELL him what a great worker I was.

    I also reminded myself that the new boss had 20+ years experience in mgt, so he SHOULD be able to see through the coworker's BS pretty easily. And if he couldn't see it for what it was, then anything I did wouldn't matter anyway.

    As soon as I quit focusing on trying to "one-up" the coworker to the boss and just focused on actually WORKING, my stress level dropped tremendously and the tension in the workplace also slowly diminished.

    In the end, the coworker decided to leave for another job once he found out his schemes weren't going to work.

    It wasn't until AFTER he had left, though, that the boss told me just how FED UP he had been (for a long time) with the guy and his actions.

    Point being - your principal may very well see and hear a lot more about your situation with the para than you realize, and if she seemed to take your side, then I would think the para is the one that will be under the closer scrutiny from the P. :D
     

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