The biggest way to avoid gossip within a school is to avoid idle time in the lounge. For some reason the teacher’s lounge has become a place where many people choose to gossip about students, administrators, policies, etc. I don’t think that it is intentional but in the process of venting our frustrations we become gossipers. Personally to avoid being exposed to the gossip and being gossiped about (for not wanting to be with the other teachers) I make my lunch time available to my students that need extra help. After all that’s what we are there for right?
In addition, be wary of conversations with teachers about students that they have taught. One of the biggest misconceptions in teaching is that a teacher should warn another teacher about a certain student and their behavioral issues. This often turns into a gossip fest and then you head into the class with a preconceived notion about a child. This is not fair to the child. While the other teacher was trying to help we should limit ourselves to sharing strategies that have helped in a non specific manner.
Next, be wary of parents. Many time in talking to parents they want to vent their frustrations about another teacher. Politely find a way to exit the conversation. Often the parent is frustrated but needs to talk with that teacher. It is very easy to get dragged into gossip by simply saying “I understand” or something similar. Next thing you know you have agreed with the parent and your name has been added to the daily gossip.
Be careful discussing other teacher’s policies without them present. Too many times as teachers what we say gets misconstrued. Saying something as simple as “I know he does daily quizzes but I just don’t” can be interpreted as you criticizing the other teacher instead of trying to communicate that you don’t give daily quizzes. So leave teachers out of discussions about your policies and procedures in the classroom. If someone approaches you with a rumor similar to the one above simply say that you will speak with that teacher because you are sure it wasn’t meant that way. This shows that you are doing the right thing and that you aren’t overreacting to a potentially innocent statement.
Keep your private life private. Often times things that you say in front of your class can lead to gossip. Something as simple as mentioning a male or female friend. This puts you at the center of school gossip. Things such as what you did on the weekend, who you are seeing, and your marital life can become fodder. In my experience it is usually just an innocent statement that gets retold until something different emerges.
High school is always the center of gossip about students, teachers, administrators and even the janitors. It is very difficult to avoid joining in on the school gossip mill or becoming the center of one its rumors. However, it can be done by simply being careful of the conversations that you choose to join in and the manner in which you choose to phrase your statements.