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Let’s Talk about Teacher Gossip

Angela Buzan Life in the Classroom, Social Issues, Uncategorized

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Last week, I was listening to the latest 3Ps in a Pod episode, “Experienced Teachers’ Passions” and got that freaky lining-up-of-the-universe feeling. I had been chewing on the topic of teacher gossip for some time, but every one of my angles seemed so self-righteous. Could I really write an eye-rolling blog like: “teachers who gossip are so annoying—thank goodness I’ve never done it”. Nope, because, unfortunately, I have enjoyed a tête-à-tête or two.

So when Donnie and Angelia asked their guests how they maintain positive, professional dispositions (i.e. not complaining or gossiping), I was surprised by the motif about externalized positivity. That is, instead of harping on listeners to “think happy thoughts”, the panelists all agreed their secret was their actions. Coincidentally, all three guests shared the habit of rallying their own attitude every morning and then using intentional action to inspire kids and colleagues. Why? According to Beth Maloney: “attitudes can spark like wildfire: you have to show your uncontainable enthusiasm for teaching everyday”.

Turns out, Beth’s advice is spot on: attitudes are literally contagious. The research says it’s natural to form negative opinions, but as soon as you hear someone else express their negativity on the same issue, it intensifies your experience and entrenches your attitude. These findings are supported by social science research which reveals that the very act of gossip can make people feel more confident. Essentially, gossip eases insecurities; by naming a bad guy, the gossiper frames the idea that all eyes should be on someone else. In short, people gossip because it helps them understand where they “rate in the unofficial local hierarchy, and how [they] might improve [their] standing”.

Let’s walk this research to the front door of a public school, where teachers face constant hurdles of unpredictability and are often the butt of social and political headlines. Is it any wonder that a workplace so rife with tension would breed gossip?

So, I’m thinking about these studies and I’m wondering what to do with them, because I suspect if I put on a pair of Superwoman tights and run through my building screaming “you’re all great people who are valued in the hierarchy!” I’m not going to get the desired results.

Onto Plan B.

This is where I coin the term Passion Gossip, which is essentially the idea of informing the world about how awesome your colleagues are. I got the idea from the Business Insider article that claimed some gossip helps people retain information and problem-solve. How? The simple association of a name with a situation makes it more memorable. For example, you’ll forget most of what you read in a textbook of effective strategies for rhetorical analysis, but when I illustrate to you the ways Alexis LaDuca exemplifies them, you’ll remember and be inspired to try them yourself.

Which leads me an important question: what do Misha Freeman and The Rock have in common?

Aside from their resonating laughs and big smiles, both are endlessly passionate about people in their profession. Follow The Rock on Instagram and you’ll notice how frequently he praises his colleagues, family, and heroes. Passion Gossip. Have a conversation with Misha Freeman and you’ll walk away eager to meet the five teachers she just met and is so inspired by. Passion Gossip.

Aside from surrounding yourself by teachers like Misha who resonate good vibes, use intentional action to make positivity prevalent on your campus. Tell your colleagues how much you admire that new hire. Preach the radness of your principal who fights the good fight. Tell other teachers about the great kids they are getting next year.

Give it a shot and share your comments and connections below.

 

Angela Buzan is a full time English teacher in the Flagstaff Unified School District. She has thirteen years’ teaching experience and has taught all grades seven through twelve. In 2010, she received a Fulbright Teacher Exchange fellowship to Kolkata, India; in 2012 she achieved National Board Certification; in 2014 she earned a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Design and Instruction. Her current challenge is to out-read Gavin, in third period, who typically polishes off three novels a week.

  • Jaime Festa-Daigle

    You have coined the word of the year! I will think of it as I spread passion gossip like wildfire. I can’t stop smiling about Misha and The Rock. It is amazing what power saying nice things has as we see goodness take hold.

  • Treva Jenkins

    Misha Freeman is my spirit animal :) Every time she walks into the room she brings her beautiful, fun loving personality with her. She definitely brightens up an entire room. Her care-free personality is definitely contagious. My first reaction every time I see her is to give bear hugs!!. Attitudes are definitely contagious and it appears that many of us are expressing this theme in our blogs. I just wrote about kindness in the classroom and Jess just wrote a blog about emotional self-regulation. In these current, turbulent times, it seems many of us are taking a closer look at the importance of spreading love, not hate, encouraging one other, not tearing each other down and showing empathy, instead of spreading divisiveness. There is even research that actually shows that having a positive attitude can prolong your life. Angela, this statement really resonates with me “…Passion Gossip, which is essentially the idea of informing the world about how awesome your colleagues are…” As teachers, we definitely don’t do enough of it. I look forward to getting back to school after fall break and raising the roof on just how much I appreciate my students, my principal and my fellow peers!

  • http://storiesfromschoolaz.org Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    Now I have a word for what I have tried to do over the past couple of years! I can’t say I am innocent or pure when it comes to gossip, but I have never felt good when I have indulged, and over the past couple of years I have really tried to clean up my act. It makes me feel better and helps me see more of the amazing work the people around me are doing. Great topic!

  • Mike Vargas

    I just have to say I echo everything you have said about Misha Freeman.. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from her and I am bewildered at just how good she is.. I think we should name an educational vocab term after her… Mished? Just my 2 cents

  • Susan Collins

    Angela…that particular pod cast really hit me hard! I made a conscious decision in 2017 to NOT engage in any negative talk. If we couldn’t name the problem and look at it through a solution solving lens, I removed myself from the conversation. I teach in a high achieving school (in a very rural area of AZ), and our pedagogy is great, school culture is good but could be better. I love the way you challenge us to start with our own attitude and make sure it’s worth catching!