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How I Handled...

The Teacher
Who Always Complains

Most staffs have one: a teacher who gripes about everything. Usually others try to ignore the complainer, but sometimes the whining drags down staff morale. I have a "quacker" on my staff too, so I devised a plan to drag her over to my side!

The Problem:

I have on staff one teacher of the type I call a "quacker." She has a history of complaining, fussing, whining, or griping about almost everything. Her behaviors have created a dislike toward her among other staff members. As a result, she often feels isolated from, and by, others. She has even stated that no one likes her or wants to work with her, which happens to be correct.

Since I am new to this school this year, I was given fair warning about this teacher's behavior. With that forewarning, I went into the year with a scheme, er, a plan...

The Solution:

This teacher had some nice strengths. I suspected that the real issue with her was one of self-esteem, so I developed a plan to address that issue. It was my plan to keep this teacher busy so she would not have time to exhibit those "quacker" behaviors; if she did quack, she would only be complaining about herself. Here were a handful of the elements of my plan...

  • My first goal was to identify her strengths. That was easy: she had many talents and was a strong instructional educator.
  • I would focus on her strong skills by having her use those special talents to develop lessons. The lessons, shared with the entire faculty, would make her shine among her peers and students. With increased focus, her self-esteem would improve and the whining and complaining would diminish.
  • I challenged her to challenge our students to compete in a district-wide competition. Once again, she would be a shining star. She couldn't gripe if she was the one engaged in this program.
  • I spotlighted her among her peers for outstanding ideals and lessons taught.
  • I mentioned aloud to her students how fortunate they were to have a teacher with such dedication and special talents.
  • I sent her on a special assignment; she demonstrated to other teachers in the district some of the special projects she has used to develop state benchmarks lessons.
Those are some of the things I was able to do to refocus the teacher's energies and talents. If you have a teacher like this on your staff, these might not be the best ways to focus that teacher; but, if you take time to consider the teacher's strengths, you are bound to find ways in which to channel the "quacker's" talents.

The Reflection:

Though this teacher was good in many ways, she suffered from low self-esteem. As a result, her personality alienated her from her peers even as she longed for their approval. The key was to include her in all tasks so that if she "quacked," she was also quacking about herself. I am happy to report that my "scheme" worked.

About the How I Handled... Team of Principal Problem Solvers
The How I Handled series is intended to be practical resource for all principals and principals-to-be. Each week, members of Education World's How I Handled team share how they solved actual problems relating to school leadership, parent involvement, professional development, and a host of other "principal" responsibilities. How I Handled team members are anonymous; in that way, they can share freely the range of issues/problems they are called on to solve each day.