There’re multiple debates in the education field from teachers drinking in public to whether teachers can have colored hair.
Another topic rarely debated but not concretely resolved is whether teachers can gossip about students.
Teachers are responsible for educating their students and can have constructive conversations with other teachers about a student. However, indulging in petty gossip about a student should never be tolerated.
Most classrooms have more than one teacher for a broad range of courses in the curriculum and these teachers need to correspond with each other to help their students and also address any possible challenges they may be facing.
That said, this is different from gossiping which is unethical and has negative consequences should a parent, teacher, or even student come to possess such information.
The line can get blurry when it comes to gossiping and simply discussing someone in the education field.
When Can Teachers Talk About Students
There’re various instances where teachers may need to discuss a particular student or class in both negative and positive situations.
A teacher’s role is to educate and an integral part of accomplishing this is assessment. Although there’re various forms of assessments currently being leveraged in most institutions, these all aim to test the student’s understanding of relevant concepts or information taught.
Teachers, therefore, need an understanding of a student’s strengths, weaknesses, attitude towards teachers and other students, attendance, class participation, and many more.
Sharing this information between specific teachers is a necessity to enable them to make informed decisions concerning each respective student.
However, some teachers in some cases have been accused of sharing a student’s academic information with other students, which is illegal and unethical.
The school environment is an academic setting and although teachers may have the right to their student’s academic information, they have no right to share this information with other students.
According to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents of students under 18 have some level of control and would need to give consent for any dissemination of academic records to other students.
What Exactly Is Considered A Gossip
To put it simply, gossiping is talking about someone in their absence and usually involves passing along unsubstantiated information to a 3rd person.
Unfortunately, the line between gossiping and plain old conversation can be very blurry. In an educational setting for instance, what would be termed as a conversation or gossip?
Some conversations are easy to place as gossip, especially ones that begin with “I heard he did this bad thing” or something else.
Unfortunately, a teacher may in some cases be talking to another teacher concerning a student’s grade in a particular course.
In this scenario, can this be termed as gossiping? This conversation though would make the student feel bad or uncomfortable if they were present. That said, it’s still a necessary one to enable the teachers to ascertain any challenges the student may be facing in any particular course or subject and the source or reason for the poor grades.
This however isn’t meant to be passed along to others as mere gossip but geared toward solving a problem or enabling the teacher to better help the learner.
Why Teachers Shouldn’t Gossip About Students
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1. Unprofessional & Unethical
We’ll start the obvious. Gossiping is unethical and is something no teacher should do especially about students.
It’s fine to talk about a student to other teachers in your department especially when it concerns their academics and how to help them improve.
Teachers in a department may teach the same classes, so they’re bound to share information about a student’s academic progress.
However, a teacher repeating rumors they heard about a student to other teachers just for the fun of it or to indulge in gossip is unprofessional conduct.
Schools are a working environment for teachers and an air of professionalism should be displayed at all times. This is especially relevant in the education industry where teachers are seen as role models.
2. Lose Respect
Gossiping about a student may seem harmless especially when done in the confines of a teacher’s lounge, but any leaked information could cause the teacher to lose the respect of their learners.
Teachers are considered role models in school and students expect better from them. Any revealed involvement in such a petty act as gossiping about a student would lead to the teacher losing all respect.
3. Lead To Depression
Gossiping primarily affects the student as it can smear the reputation of the student leading to decreased confidence and even depression.
Most students find school to be stressful and are happiest during weekends and holidays. This stress is compounded multiple folds when there’s gossip about the student.
Students gossiping about the student is hard enough but a teacher joining in leads to negative consequences.
Teachers are expected to serve as parents to their students and the impact of such negative behavior towards a student by a teacher can be devastating.
Why Teachers Talk About Students
1. Stress Relief
Teachers in some cases talk about their students as a form of stress relief after a hard day of teaching.
That said, these aren’t usually gossip as they mostly focus on something funny that happened in class.
A typical example is someone who was trying to cheat ingeniously during a quiz or a student doing something they consider ridiculous. These are simply meant for laughs to release stress.
2. Ideas On How To Help A Class Or A Student
Another reason a teacher may talk about a student is to get some suggestions from another teacher on how to help the student with a particular issue related to their academics or personal.
Depending on the sensitive nature of the topic at hand, the teacher may choose to omit the student’s name in this case.
3. Brag About Student
Yes, teachers brag about our students often. We love to compete with other teachers and brag about how well our students are doing, how much a student has improved, or even a genius in our class.
4. Talking To Parent
Another obvious reason a teacher would talk about a student is when they’re speaking to the parent. Parents legally have the right to know, enquire and request information about their ward’s behavior, academics.
The teacher can then present any challenges they believe the student faces and the best possible approaches to take to help them.
However, a student over 18 has the right to their academic information even without the presence of their parents.
Can Teachers Talk About Students
Teachers can talk to another teacher or a parent about a student. However, according to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), any personally identifiable information may not be disclosed without the parent’s consent in the case of a minor or the student’s if they’re 18+.
The Bottom Line
Gossiping and conversation can easily be misinterpreted especially in the education field where some information needs to be shared among teachers.
That said, it’s unlawful for a teacher to share personal or academic information about any particular student with another student without a parent’s consent or approval.
From my experience, most teachers ethically refrain from discussing sensitive student information with other students.
It’s our job to ensure that our learners still feel comfortable instead of judged around us, in order to continuously enjoy learning in the classroom environment.