How teachers can fix staffroom arguments

Had a falling out over the workroom tea rota? Wipe the whiteboard clean with our guide to resolving a staffroom row

Had a falling out with a staffroom colleague? Grainne Hallahan offers advice for teachers on smoothing things over

When you fall out with a colleague in school, it can all go a bit... well, playground.

You’d think teachers would know better after having our own time wasted on the petty disagreements of our students, but we sometimes still indulge the same childish behaviour.

Of course we do; we're human. We spend more time with each other than we do with our own families, and eternal harmony is not a realistic goal.

The important thing isn't to make sure that fallouts never happen, but that we respond to them in the right way.

How to resolve a teacher row

Here's a guide to wiping that whiteboard clean, and starting again.

  1. First of all, are you in the wrong?

    Aladdin

     

  • No, absolutely not. It’s all a big misunderstanding, and I’m not actually at fault.
    GO TO NUMBER TWO
  • A little bit.
    GO TO NUMBER THREE
  • Yup, this was a big mess up on my part.
    GO TO NUMBER FOUR

2. You need to make sure the other person knows what happened, and try and get them to see things from your perspective.

what happened

You should…

Ask if you can have a word in private, and away from the ears and eyes of your colleagues and students.

Explain yourself, but don't stick around waiting for an apology; they may be too defensive to react to the news. It's best to say your piece, and then leave them to let the information sink in.

You should not…

Write them a long email detailing exactly why they’re wrong, attaching evidence to prove your case and BCCing in others.

3. So, you’re in the wrong. But how much?

hanging head
  • Is it a big deal, like you were told something in confidence, and blabbed to everyone in the staffroom?
    GO TO NUMBER FOUR
  • Or is it something more mundane, like you used their mug, and then left it in the science workroom, and now it has enough mould for the biology department to try a penicillin experiment?
    GO TO NUMBER FIVE

4. Ah ha. The mea culpa moment. In among the shame, guilt and internal berating, don't forget that the other person is probably pretty miffed you’ve upset them, especially if they thought you were friends. You need to get your apology out and make it a good one.

sorry

You should…

Give a full and frank apology, and try and find a way to make amends for what you’ve done. Unless you can show the other person that you really want to make things right, they’re never going to trust you with so much as their photocopier code again.

You shouldn’t…

Go for a big grand gesture. Sending a gift box of bath bombs and flowers to their form room is too much, and will only make you look dramatic. A simple sincere apology is better than any kind of statement gift.

5. All of us mess up from time to time. But is it worth falling out over? Probably not. Whether this is a little bit your fault, or you’re entirely to blame, sweating the small stuff will only make bumping into each other at the queue for the photocopier unpleasant.

hug

You should…

Find an excuse to help the other person and then try and clear the air. A good apology goes a long way. The most important thing is to show that you understand their point of view, and you’re not going to do it again.

You shouldn’t…

Waste time trying to justify why you did what you did. It’s done. It happened. And if your apology isn’t received well in that moment, don’t try to push it. Give the other person time to get over it.

Grainne Hallahan has been teaching English in Essex for 10 years. She is part of the #TeamEnglish Twitter group

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