Let’s Talk about Teacher Gossip

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

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.

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