Do you gossip about your students?
Before you answer no, it’s important to clarify that any criticism of particular students that isn’t respectfully intended for their benefit is gossip—no two ways about it.
Don’t get me wrong; consulting privately with colleagues about your most challenging students is smart and a good way to brainstorm ways to help improve their behavior.
But grumbling about students by name, referring to them sarcastically, or swapping stories of their most recent misbehavior for amusement or stress relief crosses the line from professional talk to gossip.
Although on the surface venting among coworkers appears harmless, it can affect you and your students in ways that make managing your classroom more difficult.
It turns you into one of them.
It can indeed relieve stress to commiserate with your teacher chums over your most challenging students, to get your frustrations off your chest, to disparage and grouse behind the safety of the teachers’ lounge door.
But doing so puts you at a disadvantage when you step in front of your class, because every time you verbalize negative thoughts about your students, they solidify in your mind, sabotaging and sullying your hopes and dreams for your students and your classroom.
Once on board this train of negativity, besmirching students in your imagination, rolling your eyes, wishing one or more were no longer in your class, it’s hard to disembark. Before long, you’ll see nothing but faults in your students, your classroom, and your school.
You’ll become one of them—the cynical, seen-it-all teacher so shamefully depicted in so many movies and TV shows, leaving no room in your heart for love, hope, and faith in the students placed under care.
You can’t hide from your students.
A healthy realism about your students and their strengths and weaknesses is a good thing. You need to know your students in order to provide the skills they need to improve and then thrive.
But teacher-lounge gossip about students, which is the outpouring of your negative thoughts and feelings, is devastating to one of the most critical principles of classroom management: your ability to build rapport and influence with your students.
If you harbor resentment, dislike, or animosity toward any one or more of your students, they’ll know it—guaranteed—and will return the sentiment. No matter how hard you try, negative thoughts are impossible to hide. They always bubble to the surface in one form or another.
And without a trusting, affable relationship with your students, you’ll lack the leverage you need to influence their behavior. For how can you make an impact on students whom you denigrate behind their back?
Of Honor And Grace
We all make mistakes. We all say things we regret. We all get lost in the forest at times and must find our way back.
Decide today to stop taking misbehavior personally, to stop harboring ill will, to stop participating in any conversation maligning of students. Don’t judge or look down upon those who do, just decide not to be one of them.
Choose instead to see only the best in your students. Choose to forgive and forget and wipe the slate clean at the end of every day. Choose to love, encourage, edify, and defend.
You’ll become a better teacher instantly. Your students will look at you differently, with greater respect and admiration.
And you’ll move with a grace that comes from honoring every student who walks through your classroom door.
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