January 2, 2014

Check Yourself!!!

I had an interesting experience today.  I was on my way back home to see my family and I decided to stop in this nice little town and have a sit down lunch (as I restart my paleo-diet it is much easier to do when I avoid fast food joints).  As I sat down to wait for my order I overheard a couple of people at a nearby table discussing school.  While I should mind my own business I am afraid it was all to easy to overhear the conversation.  

As this person sat there and complained of students in their school, I was concerned that he or she was discussing concerns and issues that many of us feel at times, but this person was sharing these things out loud in a restaurant.  I would love to tell you that I was the only other customer, but apparently it is a good restaurant (and it was) so there were plenty of locals to overhear the conversation as well.   My concern heightened when I began to hear them talk about special education students.

While I have the benefit of coming home and doing a little venting with my wife, and since she is also a building leader we are quite accustomed to not sharing names.  I also believe it is good to discuss things as it often helps me to reflect and hear another perspective.  But, I have great concerns about teachers, administrators or even support staff discussing students in public spaces.  For that matter I even have concerns with staff members discussing their grievances with admin, the state or other staff members in public.  No, I'm not trying to limit free speech, but there is a certain etiquette we should follow when venting.  I think everyone in every type of job has days when they are frustrated or upset and they just want to get things off their chest, but is out in public the place.  Imagine if you were at a restaurant and the waitresses or waiters were serving food and complaining about their boss, or even the cooks.  If they started complaining about co-workers or even the customers that they have had before.  Does it inspire hunger?  Does it make you want to leave a nice tip?  Does it make you want to return?  If you were a parent in that restaurant do you want your child in that teacher's classroom?

Beyond the confidentiality issue that this type of behavior also entails, just think of the message you are sending to the public.  The customers of our schools.  Everyone has feelings like those, experiences that upset them or co-workers that made poor choices, but we must think about where is the proper place to share and vent about our bad day. Sometimes we just need to stop and think about where we are and what is appropriate to share there.  Can this wait until later?  Is my volume a little too loud?  Sometimes you just need to stop and check yourself.


  1. "Or even support staff" Please remember that we are an equal and valid member of the whole-school team and we have feelings too.

    1. I didn't remotely mean it that way Charlotte. Support staff are vital members of the team. What I meant is that building leaders and teachers should not consider themselves alone in this behavior. We all need to be cognizant of this issue and I want us all to be aware. Most of my readers are administrators or teachers and I want them to be aware of this in their buildings and share this with all staff members in their buildings. We need to be aware of the message we sell and when out in the public we can either promote our institutions or we can send the message of negativity.

  2. Well done, Tom. I have the added issue, as do you, of having school age children at home. When I do vent with my wife about a school issue, we often go in the garage or go for a walk. It is important to vent, but the location of the venting should be in an area where only those whom you trust can hear.