Professional Jealousy Among Educators

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Sometimes sniping just gets people down

At the conference we were sitting in a lecture. One part of the lecture had us break into groups and analyze four different types of SME. One of the case studies describe an SME/Faculty Member who was highly dedicated to her students. She was extremely prepared, she had her exercises and activities organized and she would often have an activity or lesson plan at her fingertips when the Instructional Designer and the team would say… we need an activity that is like this… When asked to describe the SME one of the the participants in the room described her as “kind of annoying and a show off.”

I thought – what the !@#? I like working with people like that.

Then I thought… she really is revealing how insecure she is by making a comment like that. It actually reminded me of an attitude I’d seen among teachers. There really was this feeling that spread in the faculty lounge that it was not okay to be a “Show Off.” “Show Offs” included people who used new and different teaching styles and approaches or people who “stood out” as teachers. “Show offs” were not to be trusted and often there were political struggles within the school where the “show offs” were involved. In particular, I remember this struggle at one school between teachers who wanted an extra planning period by sending their classes to ‘play educational games’ in the computer lab for one hour vs. the teachers who wanted to break up the lab and actually put the computers in their classrooms and integrate writing, math and science activities using software already installed on the computers. Being the idealistic person I was/am, I assumed that I was just imagining these bad feelings from my peers. Maybe I was channeling June Cleaver, but I really thought I could work around these people and just do things on my own. Honestly, I think this was one of the reasons why I left teaching. The hosing and the sniping could be dealt with if you could find a group of people whom you could identify with and unite with against the snipers, but otherwise it was tiresome to deal with to say the least. I liked the kids and working with kids, I liked their enthusiasm, but even after a while, that wasn’t enough to induce me to remain in the teaching field.

I did some research online and found that were discussion threads and articles and an actual study about professional jealously among educators. It’s been about eight years since I set foot in a public school classroom. I hope things might have changed since then, but I suspect that in a profession where there is no upward mobility there’s no where to snipe, but on the horizontal field of play and your peers are the easiest targets. I’m not saying that all educators are like this, only that in every group, society or culture there will always be people who engage in this kind of behavior. Maybe we should look to Bob Sutton and Slow Leadership to help us figure out how to combat this type of behavior.

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