Working with kids all day means that you have a good understanding of where they are coming from and what motivates them; you are in a unique position to steer high school students through the trials and tribulations of hormone-ville. Sometimes, though, it is one of your colleagues who is behaving like an adolescent monster.
Recently, I have become more aware of the phenomenon that I call “reversion” — the act of adults reverting to teenage-like behaviour when things do not go as they would like.
These are colleagues who slam doors, violently zip pencil cases, ignore questions asked of them or greetings directed towards them and sit in festering silence whilst others try to conduct their business around the dark cloud in the office. Heavy sighing, eye-rolling and book-slamming also feature in their repertoire of behaviour.
It is behaviour that is typical of a 14-year-old; when it comes from an adult it is confronting. It almost makes you wonder if these people take selfies at lunchtime and bring in notes from home when they go on an excursion.
Teachers behaving like teenagers is real, people. I have seen it happen and no, I’m not referring to those poorly executed moves last seen on the dance floor at the Valedictory dinner.
This is a side of teaching that is rarely discussed: the person in the faculty who doesn’t agree with the rest of the group, the person in the office who wishes she didn’t have to share air with the others, the person who avoids team teaching opportunities like the plague.
For a job that is full of interaction with people and working in teams, some teachers seem to exist as islands surrounded by ferocious sea creatures.
The sway and influence these individuals can have is disturbing.
“Don’t put Marge into that group, you know she can’t work with Dennis.”
“You can’t ask Brian to work with the year 10 team on this — don’t you remember what happened at that staff meeting in term 2 last year?”
“Don’t ask Fiona to do it — it’s easier if I just do it myself. You know how she gets when she feels overwhelmed.”
It is as though isolating themselves makes these people stronger — strong enough to effectively dictate the conditions under which they work and with whom they work to a far greater degree than the rest of us.
I find this fascinating: there is no way any of us would tolerate this type of behaviour within our own classrooms yet we bend over backwards to accommodate these challenging individuals and their demands. I wonder if calling a parent meeting would help.
Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian.