Dare to step inside this hostile environment of unsmiling, unwelcoming faces. Sit wherever, but actually not there because that’s where the ones who have been here the longest sit – and no, not there! That’s where the newbies sit and for god’s sake don’t even think about sitting at the table – that is ONLY for the sporty ones and you need to pass an initiation test (or wear shorts) before you can be granted that honour. I know – sit along the benches at the sides, no one will talk to you there, you will be safely ignored, if you are lucky. If you are not so lucky you’ll get the full up and down stare from the long termers – really? Did you think wearing that would be a good idea? Oh dear. They’ll be some whispering about you later.
You think someone would do something about this intimidating, bullying atmosphere. To accept this in a school is simply outrageous.
Welcome to my staffroom.
It’s an ongoing problem. Previous heads have moved the furniture around in an attempt to get everyone to mingle (the permanent occupiers simply moved it back), they introduced ‘Staff Tea’ – “Hey everyone, let’s hang out and whinge together in the same room – that’ll be a fab end to the week!” and they have forcibly removed department break rooms to get LSAs and subjects to mix. But nothing works because everyone wants to enjoy their tiny amount of break time and if they have to do that in their classroom, alone, then so be it.
Not all schools are like this, I’ve been to schools where staff rooms are buzzing, people are laughing and actually taking their time eating their lunch, instead of wolfing it down in ten minutes because break time only lasts for 20 minutes (need to leave time for a wee and then hurry back to your room to meet and greet).
I went to one school recently where the staffroom was rammed, it was like a house party or an IKEA advert. People were joking around in the open plan kitchen, passing dishes to those on the sofas. People from different departments were openly conversing AND smiling!
I felt a long way from home.
This is not to say that no one at my school gets on – they do. I work with some of the best people and have made life long friends with many of the people I work/ have worked with. I have a huge amount of professional respect for many of my colleagues. What I mean to say is that there is a central core of bitterness, that I think probably exists in most schools. They are angry, about what I have no idea, they ignore you when you say hello to them, they will only talk to you if you address them first and the worst…the teachers who don’t back you up but prefer instead to back up students over you, the ‘I wanna be down with the kids teacher.’
Unfortunately these teachers have often been working at their schools for a long time. They are a massive obstruction to staff morale and SLT, they just want to breed nastiness. Everything that they think they are saying discreetly in the staffroom gets out and we all get to hear about how so and so doesn’t like your teaching/ the way you got promoted/ the way your views are listened to over theirs.
The only way you can try and attempt to be professional is to rise above it, ignore it and maybe find your own friends outside of this poisonous environment but then without knowing it you’ve started a clique, forever perpetuating the cycle.
When people ask me if I like being a teacher, I always reply that I love teaching, my students are brilliant, funny and warm – the only problem is the other teachers.