How to Stand up or Yourself When Respect Seems Like an Uphill Battle

I’ll never forget the first time I had to stand up for myself at work. Our entire building was undergoing a renovation. We were told the Phase 1 plans included all of the classrooms. So, like any unsuspecting and trusting art teacher, I assumed the art room was on that list.

I was wrong.

Every single room was included, except the art room! Of course, I was assured by “Phase 3” the art room would be super fab. But who knew if Phase 3 would ever happen? I had a feeling it wouldn’t. (And, guess what? It never did!)

So, instead of sulking, I stood up for myself.

I asked important questions, attended construction meetings, and made friends with the right people. I even submitted detailed plans and drawings of cabinetry, student work storage drawers (pictured below) a new working sink, and a few other small items that would at least bring my art room up to speed with the rest of the rooms. These minor things were a big deal to me.

storage drawers

I eventually got these items approved which made me feel like a valued part of the school community.

It can be so easy to be reactive, angry, and resort to using phrases like “it’s not fair” when faced with similar situations.

Instead of reacting negatively, try the following positive 3-Step approach.

1. Stop: Take a breath and gather yourself. Don’t take it personally.

2. Research: Get your information together, make a plan and be very specific about your end goal. If you don’t know what it is, who will? Make your case for how student learning will be enhanced by your proposal.

3. Present: Get your ideas out there. Ask for meetings with the big decision makers and be a positive, professional thorn in their side.

Large or small, it’s so important to stand your ground, be professional, and gradually earn the respect that you deserve as a CORE teacher in your building.

I hope my story and this approach will help you the next time you are faced with a situation like this one.

Have you ever had something like this happen to you? How did you deal with the situation? 


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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