Gossip is the root of all evil. If an individual has a problem, it should be addressed in a healthy, productive manner in which all parties feel as though the outcome is mutually beneficial.
Right. Yeah, about that.
One of the best parts about being a teacher is that you can be youthful and keep up with what’s going on in the world through your students. One of the worst parts is that you relive high school. Every. Single. Day. But in some cases, this is fantastic—you can embrace the corny a little more, and everything is a little bit more low stakes. You just aren’t as worried about your prom hair and how your dress looks when you get to go every June. Being a teacher does let you relive all the best parts about high school. But it also forces you to relive some of the worst parts.
You know the phrase “You are what you eat”? It applies to teaching, too. You are what you teach (well, okay, who you teach). For all the benefits of spending time days with young energetic people, we also pick up on some negative teen traits. The result is that teachers are often worse than the kids when it comes to gossiping. Even though we are grown adults, when outside the context of the classroom, we interact with each other as though we are still students.
I wish I could tell you that the gossip was intellectual—who’s teaching what, who might win Teacher of the Year. But then I’d be lying. The reason that middle school and high school are so hard is because for period of time, the whole world is within the walls of that school. Entire social structures and civilizations are erected and fall every day. Anthropologists and sociologists can (and do!) study the dynamics in secondary schools because they are just so contained. Everything seems as if it is of the utmost importance, and in those moments as an anxious 15-year-old, it is. Working in this type of environment rubs off on us. Except it’s worse, because even though we’re full grown functional adults, we’re reduced to being worried about who is hooking up with whom, that math teacher’s weird outfit, and what the plans are for Friday night. Sometimes, being a teacher is like being a high schooler with more independence and a little more cash flow.
One of the responsibilities of an educator is being able to relate to students. Most teaching staffs are full of people who are excited, dynamic, and not afraid to take themselves too seriously. Teachers will often resort to almost anything to keep students’ engaged and excited. These qualities mean that your coworkers are amazingly fun people. These qualities also mean that sometimes, we act like the kids we’re trying to teach. By putting adults into the microcosm that is secondary school, we begin to take on the roles of the students, at least when we’re not in front of the classroom.
Among teachers, there are the “popular kids” and the less popular kids. There are best friends and cliques. There are romances, and people trifling in those romances. There are the “nerds” who don’t have any friends, and the people who embarrass themselves on the weekends and pretend it didn’t happen on Monday. There is jealousy when the principal praises someone else’s work, and there is pride when things go well. Teachers can’t help but show off a bit and are constantly comparing themselves to each other. Teachers can be real friends with each other, but can also develop frenemies. You know, those people who you get along with on the outside but inwardly you’re just always competing with? Like, “Oh, Billy won’t do your homework? He does ALL of mine. Hmm. Wonder why that is?” Competition and the desire to “be the best” comes naturally to educators, and it’s hard to shake, even though everyone does really have the students’ best interests at heart.
The real reason teachers gossip is because life at a school is just more fun than what is happening in most of our peers’ lives. While they went to work in offices and sit in a cubicle with their stapler all day, we get to relive (over and over again) what should have been the “best days of our lives.” Everything is just simply less dramatic once you have already lived through it and realized it just is not that serious. Teachers get to act like teenagers again, getting to do all the fun stuff with (almost) none of the bad stuff. At least, that’s what I’ll tell my frenemies.