Elementary school work environment

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by cali*teacher, Sep 21, 2010.

  1. cali*teacher

    cali*teacher Companion

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    Sep 21, 2010

    I was reading on another thread that working as an elementary teacher in a typical elementary school is generally the office politics kind of thing going on a lot of times, or as one person said, a really bad catty "high school" kind of thing going on. Is this really the case most of the time? I really hope not! I have seen at the schools I've been at so far, that the teachers seem to have their groups in the break rooms, but everyone all seemed to get along with one another, and actually have good friendships and collaboration with one another. I guess it just really depends on the school and people who work there obviously. I just kind of thought teachers did their jobs, taught in their classrooms, collaborated with other teachers, went to meetings, that their education level and trying to reach common goals would cause them to be more prone to have a meeting of the minds and help one another, than backstabbing and gossip, etc.
    The nursing profession deals with that problem a lot too apparently.
     
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  3. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I think office politics exist at any job, at least to some degree, and it's just a matter of whether or not you are willing to get involved in it, and caught up in it.
     
  4. cali*teacher

    cali*teacher Companion

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    I've read some online teacher related articles on the internet that it's basically wise to stay out of the break rooms, do your job, in a way keep to yourself kind of thing, but that sounds like you'd be ostracizing yourself, and I personally wouldn't feel really comfortable doing that.
     
  5. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

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    I come from a corporate environment, and the school environment doesn't seem much different to me. Make friends, but be wary of who you trust. You just never know who will throw you under hte bus to further their own career.
     
  6. cali*teacher

    cali*teacher Companion

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    What do you experienced teachers think about the staying out of the break room, eat lunch in your classroom if you have to, basically have minimal contact beyond what is necessary? I just keep thinking it would make you look a little strange to your colleagues, and especially the principal, like what is wrong with this person that they don't want to be part of?
     
  7. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    The advice to stay out of the break room is essentially because a lot of gossip, complaints, etc. will occur there. I don't know how that might look to other teachers, but I suppose it really depends on what the other teachers do. If most of them eat in their own rooms, then you wouldn't be doing anything differently. We have to eat at the patio with our kids, and we don't really have a real break room. Our break room is our work room, so it has our computers to work on, and a table and microwave, and teachers go in there to work, and sometimes to eat. However, many teachers eat in their rooms so it wouldn't be odd at our school.
     
  8. Zelda~*

    Zelda~* Devotee

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    Wow. Our break room is a very warm place. We talk, we laugh, we celebrate birthdays---and we miss the people who aren't there.
     
  9. Toast

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    You can be social, just don't be a gossip. There is not a need to stay out of the break room, just choose your words carefully when it comes to talking about others and stay out of the gossip.
     
  10. cali*teacher

    cali*teacher Companion

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    I am an introvert who likes to be social :). I would like to form good relationships, not be a source or conduit of negativity. I guess my years have taught me if things turn to a negative slant like that just to keep my mouth closed, maybe even discreetly remove myself from the room.

    So far, what I've seen and experienced, is like what Zelda described.
     
  11. Starista

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    Sep 22, 2010

    :agreed:

    when someone tries to gossip with me -- especially about a kid -- i quickly change the subject to something irrelevant to school -- last night "house" episode, my pregnancy, the sale at Macy's.. ANYTHING!
     
  12. Hoot Owl

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    As long as you're working with humans, it doesn't matter where you teach, there will be problems. No one is perfect.
     
  13. Yank7

    Yank7 Habitué

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    Unfortunately,I agree. My school is divided into numerous cliques,with a principal who has numerous favorites and makes no attempt to hide it. We have teachers who tattle on others if they feel it will improve their status even a little bit.
    I have taught in this school for over thirty years,this is the worst its ever been. I hope most of your schools is not like this!
     
  14. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    At my previous site (I was there almost 5 years), I never ONCE ate lunch in the lounge. In fact, no one ate lunch in the lounge. People didn't get along (for the most part), so everyone hung out in their own classroom during lunch.

    At my current site, there's a group of us who eat lunch together each and every day. The lounge is a popular and busy place to be during lunch, so I enjoy being there.

    I've noticed that there are two major cliques at my current school. I talk to both groups and hope to stay as neutral as possible!
     
  15. cali*teacher

    cali*teacher Companion

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    Sounds like it just really depends on the personality and character of the principal and staff at each school, how bad this kind of situation is, or if it's a more congenial coworker environment. Kinda sad it would have to be like that.
    Sounds like as I read this thread and other threads touching on this subject, that sorry to say, the professionals in the school environment if not careful, act like the school kids themselves, lol. I fortunately have been in environments so far that seemed at least on the surface that everybody got along, maybe a slight clique thing going on with some, but that's anywhere.
     
  16. Yank7

    Yank7 Habitué

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    Sep 24, 2010

    School Environment

    Exactly, I teach a program in Character Education and I
    often remark I expect the children to show traits that are not exhibited by the adult role models in their school.
     
  17. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    When I left the intense, cut throat, arrogant world of doctors and future doctors, I was so sure that working in an Elem. school would mean teachers who are nurturing, positive, non-competitive, and willing to help each other out with the main goal always being to do what's best for the students...etc.

    At least that's the way I perceived teachers to be when I was a student.

    After working in Elem. schools for 5 years, student teaching, and one long term position, I can honestly say that many many teachers (and academic coaches, administrators etc) are just as arrogant, competitive, cold-hearted and cut throat as doctors/future doctors and I never thought that was possible on such a common level.

    It's strange, being that the fields are completely opposite in nature, income, respect and power levels etc.
    It's really sad. My teachers were not like that, not even my High school teachers were arrogant. I remember seeing my teachers collaborate with each other and speak very highly of each other. They all really respected each other.

    Things have certainly changed for the worse.
     
  18. teacherhoosier

    teacherhoosier Companion

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    The teachers I have at my school (it's my first year teaching here, and it's the last year for our school-they're closing it down and consolidating schools-which is going to end up costing more money than keeping the schools.we already have.but it's a done deal) are great,very nice and helpful-I'm the only K teacher, so it is frustrating sometimes that I don't have other K teachers in my building as a resource, but my mentor teacher (teaches 3rd now) taught kindergarten for a few years and has helped me in lots of ways. I'm the youngest teacher at my school-I'm not married, no kids, so I'm at a different point in my life than the other teachers, so we don't really socialize outside of school, but that's ok with me. Being friends both inside and outside of school has its advantages and disadvantages...
     
  19. cali*teacher

    cali*teacher Companion

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    Sep 25, 2010

    The posts I read are so enlightening. I really, really do not relish getting into this kind of situation at all. Can't we all just get along??? lol.
    Webmistress your post was so interesting. So you used to be in the medical field? I have had a desire to be in the medical field since high school. If I could go back and do everything over again I would try to be a physician's assistant, but still wanting to finish a nurse practitioner program soon. Elementary teaching is something I find enjoyable as well. I guess it's just human nature wherever you go, that really basically the petty office watercooler stuff never goes away, no matter how educated people are, it's just more of the same. How many schools were you in in that five year period?

    Sounds like as I'm reading this thread and others, there can be really good environments, some not so good. It's a matter of finding the good school environment that works for me. I just hope the addage about finding the perfect church wouldn't apply in this instance.

    The crazy thing is teachers should be role models for their students, how can teachers pass on good character traits to their students if they in their own professional life don't do it?
     
  20. John Lee

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    I agree with the comments that it is practically like any other job, w/all it's little dramas, cliques, etc. (you tend to want to think it would not, given that teachers are supposed to be "above" certain behaviors, as the role-models they are supposed to be.)

    One thing that I've lately wondered... and it sorta relates to this thread--is: Is there any sense of *NON* one-upsmanship among faculty, in terms of teaching... sort of like an unwritten code among teachers at a school... to sorta "go with the program", and not stand out too much in a positive way?

    This sounds kinda dumb as i ask this, but like I said, I've just lately wondered this because... At a school I regularly work at as a sub (which I like BTW--I like the school, the kids, I'm familiar w/the staff), I am amazed at the vanilla nature of the staff, all it's dealing, curriculums, etc. Nothing seems to stand out. No one (teacher) does anything that seems dynamic, or cutting edge, or especially far-reaching, or extraordinary in terms of effort, to me. It just seems like everyone is all about the "typical" (suburban, public) program, if there is such a thing: dittos, Daily Oral Language, reading from basal reader, math problems from book, "typical" homework (packets), etc.

    Add to this my observation of how many of this school's teachers seem to race each other to the parking lot at 3:00... I just wonder if this type of mentality (where teachers seem to passively "agree" to not shine) is not uncommon?

    I'm not trying to judge. As a sub, I could just be extremely ignorant to requirements, whatever of teachers. But coming from my P.o.V, and reading all the stuff I happen to (about teachers who do extraordinary things for their students), I definitely notice "my" staff's seeming disdain for doing anything extracurricular.
     
  21. oldfashioned

    oldfashioned Comrade

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    Hmmmmm. John, is that school in restructuring?

    I teach in such a school, and, sad to say, the teachers here are under a microscope and have very little room for creativity. What we teach and when we teach it is pretty much dictated to us. As you might guess, our school services a large, low-income public housing complex, and our families struggle with drugs and other social problems too numerous to list. Admin walk-throughs are a weekly fact of life for us, and although "fear" is too strong a word for our situation, the teachers are always mindful of the fate of teachers in low-performing schools in other states. We are committed to student improvement, but we also toe the line in order to keep our jobs.

    I suppose you might use the work "vanilla" if you visited my school, but I hope you would not assume that my colleagues and I are lazy, unprofessional, or incompetent. It's just that things are a bit more complicated than they seem on the surface, so avoid jumping to conclusions.:)

    Getting back to the OP's question, adversity must pull teachers together, as our school has its normal grade-level friendships, but our teachers get along extremely well.
     
  22. TeacherApr

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    We all get along, mainly, at my school and most of us hang out with each other outside of school. We are all usually on the same page as far as opinions of one another go. There is gossip and there are rumors that fly but most of us know who does this and those are the person(s) we avoid.

    Not all of us eat in the teacher's lounge. Sometimes we do, most of the time we don't. We all have duties every day so it's more beneficial for us to be eating and doing work at the same time because we hardly have any "free" time.
     
  23. SCTeachInTX

    SCTeachInTX Fanatic

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    I have never worked in an environment where the break room is a negative place and I would be very wary of a teacher that wants to stay to herself all the time. When you are working with kids all day, you need some adult time to laugh, to discuss, and yes, even to vent. It is not a bad thing. I would not call it a gossipy thing. Someone mentioned that teachers are backstabbing and it is hard to trust some. Well, it is true that occasionally you will find a teacher that is just malicious and does not often even realize it. The best defense is not to run and hide in your room, but to do the right things all the time so that you don't have ammunition that can be aimed in your direction. I have never encountered a problem with this and I have been in 5 different schools. (I opened two of the schools up and changed districts 4 times, and moved out of state once.) :)
     
  24. SCTeachInTX

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    This is not everywhere. I have been in 5 schools and in two states and I have never seen this kind of atmosphere. I have had CWAZY principals, and some CWAZY curriculum that I was supposed to teach... but the people have always been kind hearted, helpful, willing to collaborate, help one another, and the climate has been nurturing.

    This is not always the case, I hear. But I think that we cannot lump all schools into the negative. Also, BE the one to change the negativity. When I was in a school with much more experienced teachers, I know they felt threatened by what they perceived that I knew. I would listen to all their advice, use some of their principles, and share every single thing that I did in my classroom with them. This actually got some of them on board with some of the newer teaching practices. I was never perceived as a rebel, because I shared every single thing that I did with my team. They noticed that my kids were excelling and reveling in coming to school. They noticed that something different was happening in my classroom, but they never held it against me, because I was always upfront about what I was going to "try" next. Some people act the way that they do because they are so afraid of change. I just smile and let everyone know what I am up to... whether they want to join me or not. Having a transparent classroom really does change the climate of a situation and makes what you are doing or not doing not a threat, but a different way of thinking about the same curriculum.
     
  25. John Lee

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    No, it's rather an opposite situation oldfashioned: suburban, good test scores, etc. They DO have quite a bit of restructuring in terms of teachers getting laid-off etc. But since we were talking culture (amongst teachers) at a school, I just wondered if this sort of thing, where teachers sort of "agree" to be patently mediocre (for lack of a better way to say it) was not uncommon.

    I don't know if I'm explaining it right. In your situation, I can totally see why a program like the way you describe would be used. But in my situation, in a district where honestly... the students will basically "succeed" (w/regard to testing) with any type of reasonable instruction. So, I just think that enriching activities, that promote independence in thought, that kind of thing, would be utilized much more than it is... instead, it just seems to be "dittos" and heavily guided activities (things that I'd look to see more in the environment you describe).

    Especially considering how fortunate you should probably feel in my district just having a job, and watching teachers (7, 8 years experience) getting canned... I just think you would want to go the extra mile in some way, etc... not bolt for the exit at 3 o'clock.
     
  26. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    I eat in the lounge every day, and I enjoy it. Sure, sometimes people will complain about some silly new rule, or a stressed out person may vent about something, but the atmosphere is usually positive. There are a few teachers who have been teaching for a while, and they eat in their classrooms because they don't like the negativity. Maybe it used to be that way years ago, but it isn't now. Honestly, I don't even know the people who it in their classrooms. Lunch time is when we all get to know one-another.
     
  27. John Lee

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    It's hard for a dude though... you want to reinforce this kind of culture (like you describe), but at the same time, honestly: none of the talk that typically happens (among women, which most/all school lounges are) is stuff I appreciate.

    But I also hate the hole-up-in-your-room dynamic that I see at a lot of schools.
     
  28. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I don't find it that hard at all. I just laugh when they talk about their "feminine" topics. The key is to have a sense of humour about it.

    I was at one school for an LTS position. It had staff bathrooms for men and women, despite the fact that there were no males on staff, apart from the evening custodian. Women had gotten in the habit of using the men's room if the women's was in use. I told them that was ok, but that I was most certainly not putting the seat down! :lol:
     
  29. busybeeZ

    busybeeZ Rookie

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    That is exactly like my school.

    When a new teacher is hired, our principal makes a BIG deal to them to understand that we are more of a family type of school. Teachers that don't come to the lounge just don't really exist (or last long) at my school.

    If we are having lunch and someone is missing, everyone will ask "where's so-and-so?" and often their teaching partner (we all have a partner) will go look for them!:wub:
     
  30. cali*teacher

    cali*teacher Companion

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    Oct 19, 2010

    I can luckily say the school site I am at currently seems to have a lot of harmony amongst it's teachers and other employees, and especially the grade level I am working with. The teachers of that grade level all collaborate and work together as a team on a regular basis. The break room is for the most part a positive bunch of people. It's nice to be in an environment like that, and see how it can be. It's not perfect of course, as we are human and it's never going to be "perfect" anywhere, but it's overall harmonious and collaborative and I like that.
     

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