If there were an Olympic event for griping then I think the top awards could easily be won by teachers. After being verbally abused, underpaid, and looked down upon for working with kids, teachers have an easy excuse to be champion complainers. We certainly have a great deal to complain about with all the nonsense we face each day, but at some point it gets to be enough.
I went to a school get-together Friday night so that I could get to know some of my fellow staff members better. I got to see how talented a third grade teacher was who had built an addition on his house all by himself. Another first grade teacher I talked to had traveled the world teaching with her Army husband. As I moved from group to group I sat down with a crowd who were delving into students, parent, and other teaching related issues they had faced at school. The names and topics were flying around and after a week of teaching, I just didn’t want to start my weekend with more talk about school. So I graciously listened for a while and then made my way to the exit to go start my weekend away from education.
Gripe sessions allow us to get troublesome issues out in the open. Complaining enables us to find comfort that others are suffering in the same way we are. We can even find humor in some of the ridiculous situations that we find ourselves in. However, it can also be counterproductive when we spend so much time complaining about the problems that we become unable to see solutions to our issues. Gossip can fly around so fast that we can sometimes have it fly back in your face by the time we have made a trip down the hall. Complaining also leaves us unsatisfied, because after we have vented we really haven’t changed any of the issues that got our ire up in the first place.
We all need someone to confide in to help us carry our burdens. Yet, when we think of our conversations throughout the day, would we say that we spend more time in productive conversation or in unproductive complaining? From what I have seen, the most successful teachers have this balance right.
(In the comments below, let me know what you do when you are around Olympic complainers.)