OK, as I've told some people lately, teachers often complain. It's gotten to the point that I can recognize when a complaint is coming from some of my colleagues, and will quickly change the subject when possible when I can anticipate the nature of the complaint, or in some other way 'beg out' of that conversaion. I tend to regard complaining as unproductive.

Why do some teachers complain so much, especially to their fellow teachers?

Part of that is that we are on our own most of the time, in our little fiefdoms, and we tend to like it that way. We tend to be focused on our particular course of instruction and managing our classes, and so when we are asked to do something outside of our comfort zone, many of us don't handle it very well. Isolation tends to breed distrust. There's a general feeling that administrators make a lot of work for us that is not just unnecessary, but counter-productive, and this feeds the natural sense of enmity between 'labor' and 'management.' As my quote marks suggest, I don't buy into those labels entirely. I tend to treat administrators, and expect to be treated by them, as colleagues. After all, they were in the classroom once and they are, by and large, working to support teachers in the classroom.

The other factor is that, in our isolation, we simply don't have adults to talk to. We need a outlet for those things that understandably cause us stress. This leads to the sad spectacle of the teacher who openly complains about administration and district policies to students, on a regular basis. This is, to put it mildly, unprofessional and should be discouraged. It's a measure of our professionalism when we can recognize this tendency in ourselves, and deliberately steer ourselves away from it. I try not to waste instructional time on this, and off-duty I try to not waste my time engaged in gossip with colleagues about management foibles or 'what my little monsters did today.' I can honestly say that I never bring up another student's name in conversation with other adults unless one of us is looking for some specific information that will help us do our jobs better. Gossip for gossip's sake? I can't be bothered.

But, we teachers are only human. We don't usually have adults to talk to, so when we do, we feel the need to share. And a lot of the time, our sharing is about something that impacted us negatively. This can lead a new teacher to pretty quickly sour on the teaching profession, when they encounter a bunch of colleagues who seem to have nothing but a litany of grievances against administrators, parents, students, the district and life in general.

But here's the thing: a lot of the teachers who are habitually, um, bitchy. . . .they are actually pretty happy, overall, with their jobs. Most of us are experiencing some successes, daily. How cool would it be if teachers consciously chose to share our successes, rather than our frustrations? In fact, some teachers at Bullard (following up on this training that I posted about earlier) have done exactly that, and many have reported an improvement in classroom management and in student performance based upon their decision to model a 'social contract' for students and their colleagues.

Good for them! While I went through the training, I have not integrated it into my practice as throughly as others. But, in general, I have to admit that while the program as taught doesn't fit me as well as others, the general attitude and practice cultivated has been a plus for me where I've added it. I have noticed a real change in the campus this year, and I plan to continue to observe how this works out in practice.

Why is this on my mind? Well, because I have made some changes this semester as opposed to last on these lines, and also because this semester I have a student teacher. Not only do I want my junior colleague to not become discouraged by the complaints of others, I want to do a better job of modeling professional behavior in terms of managing the classroom. As one of my colleagues said, it's like having that proverbial angel on my shoulder, and I 'have to up my game' accordingly.



Not sure precisely what this means, but PZ directed me to this interesting site which attempts to measure what they call 'risk intelligence.' I scored pretty darn high (95 out of 100):

My 'calibration curve' (in gold) mirrors pretty closely a simple linear function (purple) related to the confidence actually felt by respondents to various questions. I don't think it means that I'm smarter than anyone else, but it does suggest that I have some awareness when it comes to thinking about my own thinking process. I find that comforting, somehow. Check it out: it's simple, quick, free and thought-provoking.