Staffroom politics, student perceptions

editorial When a bunch of people get together, there are bound to be differences – of opinion, values and practices. When the people are professionals, the differences may be even more signifi cant, particularly if there are areas where interaction is not only desirable but necessary. All of us know that it’s neither possible nor necessary to get along with every other individual. But when we enter a common space – or a space where a certain common interest is expected to be served – we agree, sometimes implicitly, to set aside differences and find ways to work together. A school represents a complex combination of dynamic interpersonal and group forces. Every child is different, every class is different, the teacher-student interaction is fl uid and ever changing, and every teacher, as individual and professional, comes to the job with a different set of assumptions, varying degrees and types of training, and a range of expectations as wide as the colours of sarees worn by the staff. So when we throw the interpersonal dynamics of the staffroom into this mix, one can only imagine the kinds of problems that could result. But the good thing is that this dynamic can also generate a synergy that is very productive and creative.

When teachers do not get along with each other, it’s important that their differences remain in the staffroom – or better still, at the bus stop or parking lot. Occasionally, there are situations where teachers use students against each other, as a consequence of which crafty students then begin to play teachers against each other. School is a place where children learn how life works. If what they see is backbiting and discontent among a group of people they are by default expecting to look up to, this will frame their expectations of relationships in the outside world. If they see good teamwork in action, they will expect good teamwork to be the norm. Each of us has an undeniable infl uence on our classroom, and what we bring into it determines what the child will take out of it. We see enough evidence of things falling apart in the rest of the world. Let’s keep our schools free of divisiveness – and let’s begin by keeping our personal politics out of our classrooms.

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