Workplace Conflict as a Preschool Substitute Teacher

What to do when tensions rise between coworkers or supervisors in the childcare setting

A recent 2023 study found that a staggering 85% of people have experienced workplace conflict. Another study found that as many as 35% say conflict at work is a “regular occurrence” even as often as every day. This is true at all levels.

Yikes. With so much conflict going on, it’s a wonder anything productive ever happens! But all joking aside, it’s clear that workplace conflict is common, and apparently not going away any time soon. But what can you do when you experience drama between a coworker or a supervisor?

Here are a few strategies to keep in mind:

Focus on specifics

Focus on specifics related to behavior and events rather than personality traits. Here’s an example: Rather than saying, “Ugh, they are so annoying and selfish because they never come back from their break on time and then I never get my full break.” Say this instead, “It’s frustrating because in the last 2 weeks they have returned from break late 8 times. I often feel like I have to rush my own breaks as a result.”


Take steps to de-escalate using the proper chain of command. Here’s an example: Talk to the co-worker first, if that doesn’t work or isn’t a viable or safe option, talk to your supervisor. Don’t talk to other co-workers or hold unnecessary grudges. For the betterment of all, achieving a peaceful environment should be the main goal for all parties. And remember that all conflicts should be reported to the childcare staffing agency as soon as possible for extra support and guidance.

Be willing to admit when you are wrong

This a hard one because no one likes to admit when they have stepped out of line, but it’s a part of “adulting” that is required more often than we would probably like to acknowledge. Here’s an example: Rather than saying, “I didn’t do anything, they were yelling at me about their break and how I need to mind my own business.” Say this instead, “Looking back, I shouldn’t have brought it up in front of our other co-workers and I should have spoken to them privately. I was upset and frustrated, but I could have handled it more professionally.”

Be committed to improving yourself at all times

Remember, Excellence in All We Do is one of our Core Values, Even if you end up leaving that site due to irreconcilable conflict, there is always more to learn and even the most mature of us can embrace opportunities to do better. Here’s an example: attend trainings on conflict management or listen to a podcast or read or blog about how to resolve conflict (hey, wait a minute). Vow to improve yourself so that what you have to offer is something that others respond favorably to. This will go a long way to establish you in the field of early childhood education as a reliable and respectful peer.

piazza preschool teacher conflict


The major takeaways are this – conflict is inevitable, but there are ways to ensure that you are maintaining a cool(er) head through the process and you have an incredible support team at Piazza to step in alongside you when major conflicts do arise. You are valuable and while workplace issues are bound to happen, there are lots of ways to work through them in order to make sure many, many, many more children benefit from the gifts you have to offer.

Contributing Expert Author

Samantha Reeves, M.A.

Samantha has over 25 years of experience in the field of child development. She has worked in all manner of professions as they relate to children including beginning her career as a floater teacher with 3 units, to a multisite center
regional director, and most recently, a professor in the Child and Adolescent Studies department at CSUF.

Samantha earned her B.S. at Cal State Fullerton in the same department she would later instruct in. She has a M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University where she focused her research on attachment theory and attachment related disorders.

Samantha lives in Anaheim Hills with her husband and 4 children. She recently made the decision to put her teaching career on pause to stay home with her kids, but plans to return to the classroom in some format in the future.

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