A teacher conducts an activity to show her class just how silly gossip can be. She whispers something to a student and then that student whispers it to the next until it had been passed to every student in class. What started as, “We are going to have a long three day weekend starting tomorrow” ended up as, “We will be lucky if three of you aren’t killed this weekend.” The teacher uses this activity to teach her students why you shouldn’t believe everything you hear. She also discusses why it is essential to stop gossip instead of helping to spread it.
The lesson above is sadly not limited to the students in the school. Gossip runs rampant in just about any workplace. Schools should be a safe haven where this is not a significant problem. The faculty and staff within a school should never start, participate in, or promote gossip. However, the truth is that all too often schools are the focal point of gossip in the community. The teacher’s lounge or the teacher’s table in the cafeteria is often the center of where this gossip occurs. It is mind-boggling as to why people need to talk about what is going on with other people. Teachers should always practice what they preach. Particularly those who have seen the negative impact gossip has had on their students. The truth is that the effect of gossip can be the same or worse as an adult.
When Empathy Proves Elusive
As a teacher, you have so much going on in your own classroom and life that it can be difficult to truly understand that there is just as much or more going on in every other classroom and co-workers’ lives. Empathy sometimes proves elusive when it should be commonplace. Gossip is frustrating because it builds walls between teachers and staff members that need to be working together. Instead, they feud because someone said something about the other to someone else. The entire idea of gossip among a school faculty and staff is disheartening. Gossip can split a school’s faculty and staff in half and in the end, the people who are hurt the worst will be your student body
As a school leader, it is your job to discourage gossip among the adults in your building. Teaching is difficult enough without worrying about what others are saying. Teachers should have each other’s back, not talk behind each other’s back. Gossip creates a large part of your discipline issues with students, and it will create even larger problems within your faculty and staff if it is not dealt with quickly. The key to minimizing the gossip issues among your faculty/staff is to educate them on the topic. Being proactive will go a long way in keeping gossip issues to a minimum. Have regular conversations with your faculty and staff members discussing the bigger picture about the damage that gossip can cause. Furthermore, implement strategic team build activities that bring them together and naturally forge solid relationships. When it comes to gossip, make sure they know what your expectations are and how you will deal with it when it becomes an issue.
How to Proactively Defeat Conflict
It is also not realistic to have a faculty and staff where there is never any conflict. A policy or set of guidelines must be in place when this happens that leads towards resolution between the two parties instead of division. Encourage your faculty and staff members to bring these issues to you and then act as a mediator between the two parties. Having them sit down together and talk out their issues will help. It may not be effective in every case, but it will peacefully solve the majority of conflict issues that you have with your faculty and staff. It is better to take this approach than to have them gossiping about it with other members of the faculty and staff which can lead to bigger issues down the line.