Category Archives: collegiality
I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.
Psalm 6:6, RSV
Unlike the person who wrote Psalm 6, I’m not weary with my own moaning. I’m weary of listening to someone else’s moaning.
The young third-year teacher across the hall complains a lot. He comes into my classroom during my lunch break and recites a litany of grievances against his job. “I’m going to be honest with you,” he says. “I don’t want to be here today.”
I listen politely, saying little. He continues.
“I can’t wait for this day to be over,” he says. “I just want to go home.”
Almost daily he tells me how much he doesn’t want to be here, how much the kids annoy him, how low-functioning they are, and how he tells them to shut up and get to work.
Sometimes I think I should take this young teacher aside and ask him, gently, “Why did you go into teaching? The kids seem to irritate you. Have you considered another career?”
But then I realize that he doesn’t want me to say anything, especially anything that will call his career choice into question. All he wants from me is a listening ear, and as long as I keep listening, he’ll keep complaining.
Finally, I weary of the daily gripe-fest. I slip out of my classroom and find another place to eat my lunch. Sometimes I even run home for a quick bite to eat, because eating alone is better than being subjected to a constant barrage of negativity.
In one of his letters to one of the churches, St. Paul writes (in venerable King James English): “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”
It’s easy to make the connection between “filthy communication” and four-letter Anglo-Saxon words. Yet I think “filthy communication” also includes the negative things we say about others or our situation: “I can’t stand that kid” or “I don’t want to be here today” or “I hate my job.”
Advent is a time when people of faith cultivate hope and joy and peace. Negative thoughts and feelings—and speech—can crowd out hope and joy and peace, leaving me feeling empty and distressed.
So here’s my Advent aim: to moan less, to listen to less moaning from others, and to find ways to turn “filthy communication” into words of hope and joy and peace.
Because the summer school director needed to consult with me about the fate of some students this morning, I was late for my first-period class. No problem. My co-teacher had taken charge and introduced the lesson. As I entered the room, she was reading aloud to the students from Number the Stars:
Annemarie looked at the Rosens, sitting there, wearing the misshapen, ill-fitting clothing, holding ragged blankets folded in their arms, their faces drawn and tired.
What? What was that dissonant note?
Instead of saying misshapen, Ms. L had said “mis-happen.” (I knew that a mishap could occur, but I didn’t know that something could “mis-happen.”)
She kept reading and I didn’t say anything. It’s one thing to correct a student who mispronounces a word, another to correct a colleague—especially in front of students. Besides, I’m the only one who flinched; nobody else noticed anything amiss.
My co-teacher may not be perfect, but neither am I. Until I was 28 years old, I thought remuneration was “renumeration”—and that’s exactly how I pronounced it (much to my mortification in retrospect).
I’ve mellowed a lot over the years. Much of my abrasiveness has been worn away. I now know that extending even a little charity to others goes a long way toward building harmonious relationships. More than anything else, I want to be working with my fellow teachers and not against them.