Many teachers can get caught in the negative mindset trap that our colleagues can project onto us. We have the potential to absorb other’s negative comments in the staffroom, teacher workroom, hallways – the possibilities are endless.
It is important to remember that everyone has their own relationships with students, other colleagues, administrators, and parents. We cannot get brought into these relationships which could risk our own carefully crafted relationships and workplace reputations.
This can definitely be a hard lesson for new and experienced teachers to learn. I try to avoid workplace gossip by limiting my time spent in places at school I know are likely to be areas for gossip (e.g. staffroom). I use my lunches to mark and/or plan lessons to reduce the amount of work I take home each night. I also try to avoid people who have a frequently negative outlook or gossip. Avoiding situations is not always possible, but you can stop the spread by not passing along new obtained “information”. Most likely it is not the entire story.
Several experienced teachers have shared their strategies below for avoiding workplace gossip and negative talk.
- First, avoid the people that bring you down. If you can’t, try this. I once read that if you don’t agree or ask for more information while people are gossiping/being negative, they will quickly stop because they won’t feel like they are getting the reciprocation they are looking for. Meghan from Fun Fresh Ideas
- Avoid places like the workroom during busy times to eliminate being caught with stressed, frustrated, or gossipy teachers. Michele from A Lesson Plan For Teachers
- Sometimes people seem difficult because there is a lack of communication. When you are able to sit down with that person and talk, it’s amazing how much you find in common. I recently did this one of my colleagues and found that they had the same passion as I do for students with Autism. Prior to that experience, I thought she didn’t care. Laura from Research Based Teaching Tools
- Kill them with kindness. I find that people who are generally grumpy or gossipy because they have low self-esteem or are dealing with personal issues. When I take a moment to step back and imagine what it might be like to walk a mile in that person’s shoes, it helps me to love them and focus on encouraging them. Building a relationship with someone (even someone I might not expect to befriend) makes me feel 100% better than bad mouthing them. Melissa from The Reading and Writing Haven
- I usually try to say something positive that I’ve noticed about the person in question and try to redirect the conversation. If that doesn’t work, I suddenly remember an errand I need to take care of and leave the conversation. Jenny from Bulletin Board Bonanza