"Detoxing" Faculty Negativity

Vol. 12 No. 7


Contract renewal season is here once again! For many of your faculty, it’s a formality. Their classes are vibrant and exciting; their students are engaged and growing; their teaching methods blossom under your school’s dedication to their professional development. You look forward to working with them for years to come. Some teachers, however, have not met your standards for retention. Keep reading for some common attributes and attitudes of toxic faculty and ways to mitigate the damage to your school and students.

The Gossiping Teacher

At first, this teacher may not seem to be a problem. He or she is beloved by students and parents alike, and seems to get along well with coworkers. But, sooner or later, he or she begins to discuss items better left unshared with parents, such as “unfair” compensation packages or the new, seemingly-unskilled Division Head.

Teacher gossip undermines the foundational sense of harmony and community your school strives to nurture for its students and faculty alike. Toxic teachers can cause rifts to open and sides to form on important issues, often developing opinions from incomplete information. Drawing teachers aside individually to calmly discuss their propensity for indiscretion may be all the correction that’s required—they might not have realized they were doing it! Further incidents may require formal warnings and disciplinary actions.

The Lazy Teacher

Once upon a time, this teacher was filled with optimism, buoyed by the thought of teaching students in accordance with a mission he or she believed in. Years later, the teacher has grown disheartened. He or she no longer revamps lesson plans to make classes timely and engaging; does not contribute new ideas to fellow teachers; and skates through the year with the least effort possible, counting down the years to retirement.

The lazy teacher has checked out, in a manner of speaking, but all hope is not lost. There are many reasons why people start to “slip.” It could be a personal issue, a problem with your school’s evaluation system, or he or she may feel overwhelmed and exhausted at the thought of trying something new. Try pairing teachers like these with more energetic mentors to inspire some fresh takes on their old plans. Creating formal professional goals and checking on his or her progress may spur the “lazy” teacher to new momentum.

The Disenfranchised Teacher

A step beyond mere laziness, disenfranchised teachers feel disillusioned with your school's educational or bureaucratic process. These faculty members may feel as though much has been promised—a revitalized curriculum, more or better facilities, fairer professional evaluations—but little has been delivered. They may feel abandoned by their administration, left adrift to struggle with no relief in sight. In their frustration, they take the saying “misery loves company” to a whole new level, leaving afflicted students and faculty in their wake.

These faculty members are clearly problematic. Through your evaluation process, you’ll want to examine if their personal mission still pairs with yours. Before immediately dismissing the concerns of such faculty, it may serve them—and your school as a whole—to do some reflection on the current state of affairs. If you have several such teachers among your faculty, it may be time to review your goals and goal-setting processes. We can’t stress enough how vital it is to have an updated evaluation system that propels professional development and helps enrich both your school and its staff.

You should quickly release any teacher who cannot fulfill your school’s mission, especially if that teacher proves to be a danger to the students for whom he or she is responsible. There should be no room on your staff for lazy, divisive, or angry people. The well-being of your students—educational, psychological, and physical—is your top priority, and these teachers could damage all three.

By fairly evaluating and supporting all your teachers, you will create a stronger school culture that will help insulate itself against toxic teachers and negative attitudes.

For help devising and implementing a fair faculty evaluation and retention practice, check out ISM’s Comprehensive Faculty Development from our Bookstore. Designed to be an all-in-one guide for the private-independent school administrator, CFD follows the life cycle of a teacher at your school, from hiring and induction to professional development and retention strategies.

For hands-on direction for your school, come join ISM’s expert Consultants in Stowe, Vermont, or Salt Lake City, Utah, for the latest faculty management theory at our Summer Institute in the Teaching for Excellence II and Comprehensive Faculty Development workshops.

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Division Heads Vol. 8 No. 2 The Recipe to Prevent Teachers From Becoming Toxic
ISM Monthly Update for Division Heads Vol. 7 No. 9 Make Your Faculty Evaluation Meaningful
ISM Monthly Update for Human Resources Vol. 11 No. 6 Rebuilding Working Relationships

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 37 No. 2 Aegis Academy Faculty Evaluation Sample
I&P Vol. 37 No. 1 Systematically Attracting, Developing, Rewarding, and Retaining Faculty: A Mission-Based Model for 21st Century Schools
I&P Vol. 33 No. 10 Characteristics of Professional Excellence: Faculty Interviews

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