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Your Opinions May Be Dangerous: How to Help Teachers Stay Positive

Your Opinions May Be Dangerous: How to Help Teachers Stay Positive

Does a dark cloud hang over the teachers’ lounge at your school?  Check out the tips below to help the teachers in your school stay positive.

When the Teachers’ Lounge Goes Upside Down

“Avoid the teachers’ lounge.”

That is a piece of advice most teachers are given while still in their education program, the idea being that the lounge is often a breeding ground of negativity, and it is best to avoid it.  That, of course, is easier said than done.  While teachers love their students, it is normal to crave some adult interaction during planning periods.  It is also perfectly normal to need to vent to someone when something is bothering you.

But when the lounge turns into a regular venting session—about students, about parents, about fellow teachers, about the administration—that is when opinions become dangerous.  A simple vent from one teacher can steamroll into something much larger.  Voicing your concern about a student can turn into a daily digest on what Brendan did today.  Confiding in colleagues about another teacher’s behavior can easily grow into a war that divides the staff.

The result?  A demoralized staff and a general emphasis on the negative that has the potential to pervade every aspect of the school, right down to the students.

But what can the administration or teacher leaders do about it?

Provide Teachers with a Constructive Outlet

Teachers are human, and when something is bothering them, they need to be able to speak to someone.  And while complaints can get out of control without the proper outlet, they mostly are driven by legitimate concerns.  The teachers at your school need to know they are being heard.

What are some ways to give teachers a constructive outlet?  Administrators need to keep an open door policy, and mentor programs should be established so teacher leaders can help to address some of these concerns and take the full burden off of the administrators.  At my school, the mentor program has made the greatest difference, giving us the chance to voice our concerns without broadcasting them to the entire staff or needing to wait for an administrator to have a free moment in their busy day.

Provide a Quiet Workspace

This is of particular importance when you have teachers who do not have their own rooms.  For these teachers, the lounge is often the only place to spend time when another teacher is in their room.  Of course, once in there, it is easy to get off track and get pulled into the cycle.  A quiet workspace allows teachers to get their work done without getting pulled into the cycle.  As an added benefit, without so much work hanging over them, they will feel more positive in general and can bring that positivity into the lounge and into their classrooms.  Our quiet workroom has long been the refuge of the most positive members of our staff.

Speak Directly with Those Dwelling on the Negative

Okay, so this piece of advice isn’t the easiest one to take, but it is one of the most effective.  If you have a teacher who is particularly driving the negativity, pull him or her aside and have a talk.  Often, these individuals aren’t aware of the impact they are having on other teachers and staff member.  Additionally, while they might not have been comfortable going directly to you with their concerns, this conversation can open up the dialogue needed to resolve the source of their negativity.

Encourage the Positive Thinkers

Finally, encourage the positive thinkers on your staff to speak up or redirect conversations.  The chances are that these individuals feel uncomfortable with the negative climate and will be receptive to the idea of changing it, they merely need to feel empowered.  Just as negativity is contagious, positivity is as well.

Get Started

A negative culture in the lounge has the potential to bring down even the strongest teachers and create a school culture that focuses on the negative over the positive.  If you are seeing this within your school, it is imperative that you take steps to remedy this issue.  Open up the lines of communication, give teachers another space to work, speak with the greatest sources of negativity, and provide encouragement to your positive thinkers.  Are you ready to see the difference these changes can make in your school?