taking control

If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree.

— Jim Rohn

Image courtesy of njaj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


One of my (many) pet peeves is people who complain incessantly about something, but fail to do anything proactive about it.

A particularly annoying (and recurring) example from my own experience:

A group of teachers secretly moan to each other about something at school. It may be a decision the Principal has made, a particular curriculum push, extra administrivia which is taking time away from teaching … whatever. The whining (and, let’s be honest, bitching) goes on for several days … or weeks. It is undertaken in the privacy of classrooms after school, in the corner of the staffroom in hushed whispers or on the way out to the carpark at the end of the day. The longer it goes on for, the more it snowballs. Everyone in the whinge-fest agrees that something needs to be done; the issue needs to be raised at the next staff meeting. The date of said staff meeting arrives — nobody says anything. Worse — the executive team may have gotten a whiff of it and raise the subject during the meeting; nobody says anything. Even worse — somebody does actually raise the topic, the executive ask, ‘Who else feels this way?’; nobody else says anything!

As the person from the latter example who speaks up, I have been burned once or twice.  Never again. Now, if I have an issue with something, I go directly to the source. I also advise colleagues to do the same. I will sit and listen to grievances for a bit, but I try really hard not to partake.

Some people take this advice on board; many don’t. I understand the reasons behind this. Some people dislike confrontation. Others may have had a bad experience in the past. It is easier to have a good whine, and hope it goes away.

The problem is: complaining often turns into bitchiness, and bitchiness is contagious.

After a while the issue becomes exaggerated and blown out of proportion. I know, because in the past I have (I am ashamed to say) been involved in this scenario on more occasions than I care to admit.

Yes, sometimes you just need to have a good bitch to get it out of your system. It’s called offloading or debriefing. But when that ‘one good bitch session’ turns into another, and then another … then you have a huge problem on your hands. And, the thing is, afterwards you still don’t feel any better.

I know she’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but a previous (and highly respected) Principal used to refer to this behaviour as white-anting. That pretty much sums it up. Complaining in secret without positive action eventually causes any collegial or team structure to collapse. End of story.

So, I developed my own policy: If you don’t like something do not sit there and suck it up, but do not whinge about it to the next person who happens by either.

Give me just one example of when a whinge has solved an issue.

Getting your grievances out in the open to the person who has caused them, or to your boss, may cause temporary angst … but at least people will know where you stand. They may disagree. They may tear you down. But at least you have made the first step to change; a step that will, I feel, earn you respect over time.

Taking the quote in a more literal sense, there are many people who do not like their workplace. They may not enjoy the environment, the work may be unsatisfying, their colleagues may be arseholes.

Another Principal I have worked with is known for saying, ‘If you don’t like where we are heading and what we are doing … a transfer is a good option.’

Some people become offended by that; an emotion I don’t understand in this case. I appreciate his honesty, and really, why would you stay if you don’t like where the school is heading?

If you are unhappy … leave.

Easier said than done of course. Some places are easy to walk out of: restaurants and other businesses with poor customer service; some friendships or relationships; some professions.

But, some people truly are stuck. In many fields, transfers are hard to come by. Relationships can be difficult to break because of social or financial security. I feel for these people and hope they can find a way out before it is too late.

I consider myself very lucky to be in the position where I can effect change in my life if needed.

As a teacher I hear many parents say, ‘I just want my child to be happy.’ Happiness comes from within; I firmly believe to achieve happiness you need to feel you are in control of your life.

This is the one thing I really hope for my children; I want them to have the confidence and ability to take control of their lives in a positive way.

Trees are beautiful, but I don’t want that to be my future, or theirs.


2 thoughts on “taking control

  1. I’m afraid that the teaching profession is filled with whingers. If more teachers showed their cards, sharing openly with colleagues, schools would be more focused on ‘big picture’ stuff and not on petty things that fester and fester into almost incurable infections. I’ve often pondered on what makes members of the teaching profession forget their prime goal – To ‘educate’ (from the Latin word meaning ‘lead out’), so that future citizens of our world will have been given the tools and strategies to become confident, caring, assertive and thinking human beings. ‘Easier said than done’ is the catchcry of many teaching professionals. It is my opinion that we should look at ourselves honestly and be prepared to be good role models for the students in our care. We must ‘practise what we preach’, otherwise we don’t deserve to be part of groups of concerned people who are respected and passionate in achieving the best outcomes for the community.
    As Winston Churchill once said, ‘Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm’. We must ‘maintain the rage’, ‘never give up’ and be prepared to have the courage to bare our souls for the betterment of not only the school community, but the world at large.
    For myself, as I’ve said on so many occasions, “Give me the courage to be an assertive person, sharing with others, so that answers to problems are, or may be discovered in an open forum of honest, respectful communication.’
    Another quote I find useful in dealing with life’s problems:
    ‘Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.’
    Must stop!!! I can feel myself going out on a tangent!!
    May the force be with you, Kellie!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have never understood the reluctance of some in our profession to open up their classrooms and show their stuff. Even if what you are doing is only half-way there, it’s a learning opportunity and should be nothing to be ashamed of. It is hard to show your cards, but so valuable at the end.


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