As we’re ready to head back to school, and some of you already have, I’ve seen my fellow bloggers sharing tons of resources for the beginning of the year. While I’ve got parent letters, seating chart outlines, rules and expectations, and the like, I decided to share something different with all of you today.
The one thing that I can give you this school year is a pledge to stay positive. Veteran teachers everywhere will tell you that in a school building, it’s easy to get sucked into the negativity that lurks beneath the surface – under the smiling faces, behind closed doors, and bursting out of the teacher’s lounge. Don’t get me wrong – not every colleague that you encounter is a black hole, ready to suck you into their universe of negativity. But it’s there and I’d love to help you avoid it. And some schools are worse than others. I just happened to start my career in a school on the lowest end.
As a background, at my last school, I fell into a rhythm. I had colleagues that I considered to be close friends, and others that I didn’t engage because nothing they told me was helpful. But, almost without realizing, every interaction I was having with even close colleagues was SO negative – “I can’t believe that X,” “Or you’ll never believe what [student] did today.” And at first, I wasn’t the one that was negative. I got to hear my colleagues struggles in the classroom, their emails with angry parents, their altercations with students. It starts out so harmless, but then I felt like I needed to contribute. Like, to make my friend/colleague feel better, I also had to share something negative. It united us; it made them feel like they weren’t alone. And then one day, it consumed me. I hated it, and I knew that I had to extract myself from the situation as soon as possible.
So if you have colleagues that are excessively negative, here’s my advice:
- Keep walking. You’ll have colleagues that want to stop you in the halls, and they’ll want to talk for a long time. Just give them a greeting and keep going. Chances are, you’re busy, and they should understand that.
- Avoid the teacher’s lounge. This is a cliché that reigns true. If you need a place to eat your lunch (please don’t eat it at your desk – you deserve a break!), by all means, check it out. But if you find that it’s all “shop talk” and complaining, then find a better place to spend your off time.
- Smile and give them encouragement. Some teachers just want to be heard. Let them vent once in awhile, but don’t make a habit of it. Many will turn down any advice that you give them, so just tell them that you hope the next day, period, week will be better.
- Turn to twitter. Chances are, you found my blog because you’re already on twitter. I’ve heard it said before, and I’ll say it again: the negative teachers AREN’T on twitter (none of my old colleagues are, either.) You can find colleagues with whom to share ideas, advice, and ask questions on twitter. They’ll be realistic about their tough days, but they stay positive. They were more helpful than my real life colleagues, on many levels.
If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. If you’re a new teacher, I recommend reading this article on What Ellen wished she’d known as a new teacher. It wasn’t until I found that article that I knew things could get better somewhere else. Once I knew that my old school was not the place for me, I was able to see what was happening, and make strides to be more positive.
I hope to share general encouragement and to be positive this year. Maybe I’ll start a hashtag.
Update: I’d also recommend reading this article by Jennifer over at Cult of Pedagogy, even if you’re not a first year teacher: Find your Marigold