I have come across countless positive, hard-working, dedicated educators as I have traveled across the country. In fact, I am confident that most of the educators I have met are there to do the best job they can, and are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
But every once in a while I come across an educator who sucks the life out of the room. This person carries in a black cloud of despair as they walk across the threshold of the school. These educators are few in number, but it feels like they are the majority because they are typically the most vocal. I have found that there are some common traits amongst these types of educators:
1) They are the first to complain, no matter what the topic. From getting a new student, having to go to a professional development, or being asked to join a committee, everything is fair game for grumbling.
2) They are the last to volunteer. When a co-worker needs help, a program at school needs staff to attend, or the staff is taking turns to complete a task, no opportunity is too small for this educator to not help!
3) Somehow, someway, this teacher claims to have the worst class in the school for the past 15 years. That is quite the streak!
I have a term for these people. Since these individuals are negatively charged educators, I call them "electronators" (electron + educator).
It is easy to get hung up on electronators because they can be intimidating or pushy, especially when they are looking for people to join their bandwagon. It would be easy to say "ignore them," since that's what we would tell our students to do, but adults can be tough to ignore.
So what is an electronator's kryptonite? In my experience, electronators want fuel. They want a subject to complain about. They want to find a reason they cannot do something. What if you provided things they could do? Be a cheerleader for them. Find ways to cheer on their contributions, even if it's menial. Ask them questions that you know they can have a positive response for. This can be painful, especially when you're pulling at shoestrings to compliment, but it can make a difference.
Being a teacher leader is a daunting task, but part of it is empowering your co-workers, and finding ways to make the team stronger. So the next time you run into an electronator, see what you CAN do to make a difference in their life.