Stay Out of The Faculty Room: A Cesspool of Virulent Negativity
By Jill Jenkins
Poisonous people are lurking in the staff room spreading negativity, seeking the alliance of others and turning the staff room into a virulent cesspool of negativity. Such people can destroy the morale at a school, render TLC’s inoperative and destroy the self-esteem of developing young minds. How do they operate? Their negativity spreads like a virus through the school beginning with a simple whine that a particular student is incorrigible and an attempt to cajole others into justifying their prognosis by agreeing. Armed with allies, the virulent teachers stop searching for new perspectives and techniques for helping the struggling child. Worse yet, the teacher never considers that he/she owns the problem. To help the child, the teacher must change what he or she is doing. The problem has no hope of being resolved.
Once this virus is released in a faculty room, it continues to multiply. Other members of the faculty begin to avoid responsible collaborative attempts to share positive solutions to troubling classroom behavior by whining to each other. The shared alliance of whining is destructive to students with learning handicaps, emotional issues and irascible dispositions. Not only will the challenges associated with their unique learning styles be ignored, the teacher now armed with allies may feel empowered to mistreat them or ask for the student’s removal from their classroom. Students are very perceptive to teachers’ emotions. If a teacher does not sincerely desire a student to do well and care that that student succeeds, the student will know and act accordingly. If a teacher feels hostile to a student, he or she will know and reflect that hostility back to the teacher. Self-fulfilling prophecy is not a joke. A teacher with a bad attitude can negatively impact students’ self-esteem and have a long lasting effect on students’ abilities to succeed.
The toxic teacher with a hostile attitude can negatively affect the attitudes of other teachers. These emboldened teachers may use this new-found power to usurp authority over school policies, procedures and/or curriculum. Naturally, not all teachers are going to agree with every policy or procedure in a school or with every curriculum decision made by a district or state, but most teachers comply and do whatever it takes to make successful implementation; however, the toxic teacher not only becomes mavericks who refuse to implement policy or curriculum changes, but encourage others to join their mutiny. Some conveniently miss meeting so they can fane ignorance. Others arrogantly refuse to implement chances and announce their insubordination vociferously. Regardless of the tactic, the results are the same: they are the weakest link. As an administrator this behavior needs to be addressed directly if it is going to be curtailed and quickly before it spreads. If it is not curtailed, their employment must be terminated before it become viral.
Poisonous people are everywhere: your family, your community and your work. Avoiding these people can help a teacher maintain a positive outlook. Avoid the staff room and take a walk during lunch. Select your friends from colleagues with positive attitudes. If you are an administrator provide in-service classes on the importance of teamwork and positive attitudes. One book that you might want your faculty to read is Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by which discusses making decisions when you are not in the box. Discussions or even in-service classes offered by this organization might improve teachers' attitudes and productivity. If you have a poison person in your staff, document his/her behavior, and address the matter directly with the individual and quickly before their attitude spreads. . Nevertheless, if they don’t acquiesce, termination could prevent a mutiny.