Teacher gossip in the workplace is real and it can be a real problem in schools where the practice is so commonplace that it is accepted. In an environment where gossip is the norm, teachers do not feel safe and resort to blaming people for problems instead of looking at problems as challenges that can be solved with new ideas. A school where gossip is rare or non-existent sets the stage for professional conversations and collaboration that focus on ideas that work rather than complaints that demotivate and waste precious resources.
Consider using the chart above "Little people talk about other people. Medium-sized people talk about things. Big people talk about ideas." as a discussion starting point for a faculty meeting, committee meeting, or planning meeting. What do teachers think of the chart? How true is this? What does gossip look like? Sound like? What are productive ways to solve problems? Can we change our school culture so that it is acceptable for teachers go to the person they are upset with and tell clearly what the problem may be? What are or should be the ways to tell a teacher or an administrator that something is not working or that you have an idea to address a problem? Agree on solutions and follow-through on the agreed upon procedures - strategies that will eclipse damaging gossip.
Think about hanging the chart in the staff room or a prominent place to remind teachers of respectful and productive teacher talk. Revisit the conversation over time and make needed adjustments to the plan and process based on feedback. There really is no place for gossip in schools especially when we have so much important work to do - and if you are successful in stopping gossip, you might unlock incredible untapped creativity and skill that's just been waiting for the chance to see the light of day!
References: The School Principal as Teacher: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning, The Wallace Foundation, January 2013
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