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PrimaryHealth & Wellbeing

Negative people – Beware the mood hoover at your school

They’ll suck the positive energy out of your school, says this anonymous teacher

The Undercover Teacher
by The Undercover Teacher
FREE, BITE-SIZED CPD The secrets of happy primary schools
PrimaryHealth & Wellbeing

Over the last year or so there’s certainly been a lot of anxiety within schools.

We’ve had to adapt to an unprecedented amount of change. The last-minute announcements of government decisions and changes in policy have only added to the stress for leaders and those working in education. There’s certainly been a lot to moan about.

During the last 12 months I’ve felt very grateful that I no longer work in a couple of my previous schools.

They were tough gigs under normal circumstances but friends who still work at these schools have commented on how hard it’s been recently: increased online lesson observations; formal feedback from recorded PowerPoints; virtual learning walks; additional planning; increased staff meetings.

In short, there are a lot of anxious leaders and stressed teachers out there.

However, I want to talk about the mood hoovers at your school: the people who suck the positive energy out of you. I’m sure you know who I mean.

I’m not talking about the colleague who lets off steam about something or the teacher who often gets involved in heated discussions regarding school policy. I’m not talking about the staff member having a moan about a parent or difficult child. This is all healthy – after all, it’s good to talk and share our problems.

In many cases, talking about your problems can help to iron them out or can make you feel better about a particular situation. Instead, I’m talking about the person who constantly and relentlessly moans about everything and anything, all of the time.

Every school I’ve worked in has had one. You can almost predict the exact words this person will say when an idea is suggested in a staff meeting. You know full well that they’ll be straight on WhatsApp groups after school to moan about something.

They demand respect from their leaders and colleagues but don’t help themselves at times, with comments such as “But we’ve always done it this way”. The slightest change or new idea is immediately attacked; especially if it might require a little bit of thought and attention or mean taking a risk.

The mood hoover doesn’t like that.

I’ve seen teachers in tears because a colleague refuses to try out something or simply dismisses their ideas in planning meetings.

This particular teacher seems to have a daily impromptu appointment with SLT, where they tell them how disgruntled they feel about a particular decision. Leaders see them coming and try to hide, I imagine. Every sentence starts with, “The problem is” or “I don’t think you’ve thought this through” or “I’m not doing that”.

Alternatively, they simply play the game and do their own thing anyway. I’ve often planned for my team, only to find the mood hoover did it all completely differently, if at all.

Yes, it has been tough for everyone adapting to the new virtual world of schooling, but constantly moaning about it isn’t helpful. I’ve been teaching online lessons and yes, it was hard at first, but you give it a go; try it out; learn; adapt. It’s not ideal, but it’s trying to make the best of a bad situation.

The mood hoover will text people and moan about their day. The mood hoover will send regular negative emails and complain to SLT.

Teaching is incredibly hard and relentless at times. You need to be careful around mood hoovers. It’s easy to be drawn into their depressive world of ‘the glass is always half empty’ (or completely empty, in fact).

There will always be colleagues who like a good moan, but they’re a laugh to work with too. They’ll cheer you up when you’re down. They’ll ask you how you feel and listen. The mood hoover doesn’t do this.

Be polite, professional and supportive, but do what you need to do to protect your own mental health at the moment – it’s taken a bit of a battering recently. If that means keeping your distance from the mood hoover for a while, then do so.

The writer has taught in five schools across a 20 year career. Follow them on Twitter at @fakeheadteacher. Visit their website here.

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