Classroom Practice : Deciphering Teacher Lounge Talk

Article excerpt

There are two kinds of "lounge talk," Mr. Keller points out & and one of the most critical professional skills that teachers need to develop is the ability to discriminate between them.

I REMEMBER the excitement I experienced as a beginning teacher when one of my colleagues came into the lounge to ask for assistance with the student recognition dinner that she was planning. Thinking about two particular students who would be rewarded for their academic excellence, I quickly signed up. Later that day, another colleague pulled me aside, concerned about "my best interests." I needed to be careful about volunteering for these extra tasks. If I wasn't careful, I would become overwhelmed and wouldn't have a life. After all, it was widely known that the principal took advantage of those who didn't know how to say no.

That is my earliest recollection of teacher lounge talk. I remember my mixed feelings & knowing the value of participating in positive school activities but worrying about being regarded as a career climber or a pawn of the principal. And perhaps I would indeed lose too much of my independence. Since then, I have come to realize that teacher lounge talk is part of the daily life of any professional educator. It is heard not only in the lounge but also in lunchrooms, in rest rooms, on golf courses, and anywhere else that small groups of teachers get together. It was just a few years ago that I happened to be in the outer office of an elementary school when I overheard a casual discussion between a principal and a teacher about a student's parent who had an alcohol problem. Two parent volunteers were also "within earshot" of the conversation. Their subsequent gossip about it made the student's plight even worse. I had to wonder if I had been guilty of a similar breach of confidence and how it might have harmed a student. Casual discussions can have major ramifications.

I remember another teacher who pulled me aside to express a concern about a student we shared. Was I aware that the student had an opportunity to attend a special writing seminar? How could we "arrange" a scholarship since the student would not receive the support from her family? Here were two similar student situations with two entirely different approaches to helping students & one elaborating on the problem, the other looking for a solution. …

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