Venting to colleagues is normal.
It’s healthy. It relieves stress. It puts things into perspective.
It reminds you that all teachers have experienced the same frustrations.
But if you have a particular student in mind, it’s also fraught with danger.
If you’re not careful, it can damage their chances for success and be hurtful to them and their family.
It can also make you a less effective teacher.
What follows are three ways you should never, ever vent about students.
1. By Name
Unless you’re taking part in a professional conversation that you could or would document, you should never mention the student by name—even if it’s obvious who the student is.
Doing so can cause your colleagues to assume that it’s okay to repeat your comments to others. The lines between a professional conversation and a venting one should always be made clear at the outset.
This underscores the importance of being careful who you vent to. It should be a friend you trust implicitly and have a relationship with outside as well as inside of school.
When venting, keep the focus on you and your frustrations. Vent about your feelings. It’s fine to express disappointment and irritation, even anger, but avoid complaining about any student personally.
Avoid saying anything that reflects a personal dislike for them—because when you verbalize animosity about a student, it solidifies the idea in your mind.
And no matter how hard you try, it’s something you can’t hide. Your dislike will reveal itself in subtle but sure ways that the student will pick up on.
The result is that they’ll dislike you right back, and you’ll have far less influence over them and their behavior choices.
It’s all too common to overhear teachers in hallways, offices, and staff lounges complaining about students by name and without a care in the world who hears them.
This is a dangerous practice because you never know who is listening. Volunteers are walking about. Parents talk to each other. Parents and teachers become friends and talk to each other. Rumors spread.
It’s always worth waiting until you’re in a secure environment to eliminate the possibility that your words will be overheard, misconstrued, or thrown into the rumor mill.
Venting Versus Complaining
Teachers who openly complain about students aren’t well respected.
They’re secretly avoided by most staff members. They tend to have an antagonistic relationship with their class, as well as the parents of every challenging and struggling student.
They rarely take responsibility, but instead are quick to blame the school, the neighborhood, parents, and administration.
And because it’s never them, their abilities never improve. They’re the same, ineffective teachers their entire career.
Venting in private, on the other hand, is altogether different. It’s healthy when it’s about your feelings and frustrations.
It’s healthy when it prompts advice, understanding, and maybe a bit of laughter from a good friend to ease the stress and improve the situation you’re struggling with.
It’s healthy when your first priority is to protect the dignity of every student in your class.
Next time you’re having a bad day, take a step back and breathe. Bide your time until you can pull that one person aside who really cares about you.
And then speak from your heart.
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