No, I don’t mean the students in this case. I’m talking about your colleagues!! Especially at the elementary level, the majority of your co-workers will be women. And I’m sure that you haven’t survived your own secondary and post-secondary education without realizing that way that women can be. The reasons could be jealousy or threat of competition, but some women are just notorious backstabbers.
When walking into your building (or buildings, as the case may be) for the first time, it is important to try to be on good terms with everyone. This is your workplace, not your sorority house, so don’t expect that everyone will be your friend, but you should be friendly and cordial to everyone.
It will become obvious as the year goes on that certain teachers may not get along and the best advice that I can give is to STAY OUT OF IT and avoid choosing sides, ganging up, and badmouthing each other. Some teachers are like cancer cells; they want to infect others with their negativity. It really has no place in our career and gets in the way of what we want to achieve: providing quality educational experiences for our students!
Be diplomatic when expressing your opinions.
ü Watch what you say.
ü Watch where you say it.
ü Watch who you say it to.
My husband is reading Herding Chickens by Dan Bradbary and David Garrett for his business degree class, and I have found it to be an interesting read full of advice for those of us outside the business world. They have some good advice on this topic that they call the "ABCs of Office Politics", which we could easily think of as the "ABCs of School Politics". The authors advice includes:
- Don't Gossip. And, above all, they say never gossip about a sponsor or executive in charge (we could insert students, their parents, administrators, etc..) They do advise listening to gossip (they call it becoming a repository of information!), but not to pass it on.
- When You Say "No", Mean It. If you are a natural "Yes Person" like me, this one is difficult. But, as the authors state, "bad requests can leech your time, talent, and energy." Their advice is to politely refuse, because most co-workers appreciate the simple, honest "no".
- Be Assertive, Not Aggressive. "Stand up for yourself, but don't be overly forceful" say Bradbary and Garrett.
- Offer Solutions, Not Problems. Everyone has problems, be one of the rare few who can come up with a few solutions. Even if your solutions don't work out, at least you are adding a positive vibe! Remember the Jedis, working for solutions?
- Watch Out for Emotional Email. Any email you write on your school district email is school property and open to review by your administration. The authors suggest writing the email in the heat of the moment, then saving it in drafts until you cool off, and then revising the email before sending. I would add my own $0.02 here...AVOID EMAIL FORWARDS in the workplace!!! Years ago, I worked in a district where a secondary teacher forwarded a "humorous" email that portrayed the teaching profession in a very negative way. Absolutely, nothing constructive was accomplished by her forward, and reactions varied from annoyance at the time wasted to outrage that she would propagate a negative image on the profession.
- Don't Whine. Don't be "Debbie Downer". We all know it doesn't solve anything!
- Bury the Hatchet. The authors suggest a sit-down meeting with the offending person, with the purpose of not repeating the same old argument, but to agree together to put the old feud behind you.
- Beware Extended Leaves. Everyone gets ill sometimes, but you never want to give anyone the impression that you are abusing your sick days.
- Delegate Carefully. We may sometimes be in situations where we need to delegate the work to others. Be mindful of the strengths and weaknesses of your co-workers as you do this.
- Give Credit Where Credit is Due. Spread positive news about co-workers in public, but never be insincere.
- Admit Your Mistakes. We are fallible as humans, and must always admit when we are in the wrong and work to make it right in the future. As the authors state, "You'll gain the begrudging respect of your team. Or at the very least you'll avoid their resentment."
- Give Critiques in Private. As teachers, I don't believe we are in the position to be critiquing each other; that is an administrative duty.
- Learn to Put it in Writing. In education, we say to document, whether it be running notes on student progress, or perhaps anecdotal notes on a student's behavior.
- Learn When NOT to Put it in Writing. A good piece of advice that I try to follow is that I don't send an email, text, web posting, or any other written piece of evidence that I wouldn't mind EVERYONE reading.
In some ways, I think that the teaching profession is more collaborative and geared toward working together, while the business world is more cut-throat. What do you think? Do the women co-workers who have problems working together turn the school into a cut-throat place? Can these business world strategies have value for us in the education world?