People who know me well will tell you that I take a little bit to warm up. I can be shy and small talk has never been my strong suit. In fact, I even experience a level of social anxiety in some situations. One of my biggest concerns when I got my first job teaching was how on earth I was going to make friends.
Somehow, the friends came quickly. I established friendships with other special education teachers as well as general education teachers. I lead a school with an Autism Awareness Initiative, which also helps me get to know teachers that I wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to talk to.
While being friendly with co-workers is a good thing, the dark side of gossip is sure to follow. It started with a quick comment, then turned into an actual time-sucking conversation. Next thing I knew, most of my conversations were gossipy in nature. Rather than asking my 70-plus colleagues for advice on handling a tricky parent teacher meeting or a strategy to help a struggling student, I joined in on pointless conversations that didn’t do anything but circulate negativity.
Not only did I join in on these conversation at school, I became too connected outside of school. I went to happy hours, holiday parties, and spent the weekends texting. In some of these instances, such as my friendship with the best inclusion teacher I’ve ever seen, these conversations were to solve problems or generate ideas.
Other conversations didn’t do the same. The night I realized that it was all-encompassing was when my husband and I got in a disagreement about something personal. He finally asked me “what did your school friends say?” and I immediately spout out the answer. That’s when it hit me, I had spent more time gossiping about the issue with my co-workers than I had actually working through it with my husband.
School and everything about it had consumed me and that is not a good place to be in. I was so focused on these friendships and joining into the gossip mill, I forgot I was a person outside that school. I’ve spent the summer getting back to what I love. I’m enjoying my newlywed life (We are only 102 days in!), diving into my huge stack of to-read books, trying new recipes, exploring my new interest in craft breweries, and snuggling with my puppy.
I feel good about the choices I’m making, because being a teacher is now just a part of me. It’s still probably the biggest part of me, but it’s not my entire picture. I’m a little nervous to go back to school, because the first time I walk away from a gossip-driven or negative conversation might be uncomfortable, but it is something I need to do. I’m not saying I will never again listen to or say a piece of gossip, but I am saying I’m going to refocus my conversations at work and my priorities outside of work.
Here’s to the new, happier, more well-rounded me!