In life, there's often an underground of rumors, comments, attitudes, and efforts. These are the actions and words that are not transparent, forthcoming, and openly shared.
It's easy to get pulled into the underground, particularly if there aren't open, ready systems of communication and share. But it's never positive to be pulled into the underground because of its lack of openness, transparency, and fair share. The underground prevents the good work possible and buries important issues that organizations and individuals need to deal with.
What can one do when faced with the underground?
Listen to what is being said, and what is not being said. Seek truth and understand your place in the matter. Questions and comments such as the following can help in this regard.
- I wonder how we can deal with this situation in an open, honest, and systematic way?
- Does data support this comment? What do the numbers show?
- Is this a professional concern, or does this lie in an individual's personal life/matters?
- Does this conversation positively affect what we can do for and with students?
- How can I help you--it seems like this is really bothering you and preventing your good work in ways that matter?
- How can we work with others to solve this problem?
- These comments don't pertain to my responsibilities. I have no knowledge or responsibility related to this.
Often the underground persists because people are afraid to speak up, or because their words and ideas are not readily embraced or encouraged. The underground can come from individual's areas of inexperience, sensitivity, and self consciousness too. And sometimes, the underground develops due to long held prejudices that persist.
Whatever the reasons, there's typically no good reason for the underground, while there's lots of positive reasons to unearth the undercurrent of questions, comments, attitudes, and beliefs. The more we address the underground issues openly, the better our communities will develop with honest, inclusive collaboration, transparency, and growth.
As a young teacher I faced a bothersome, underground professional culture issue. I didn't know where to turn with the issue. While it was mostly outside of the professional realm, it affected professional culture. I spoke about this in the underground not knowing how to face this in a professional, open way.
In hindsight, I would advise my young self to chart the behaviors and concerns, but not to speak of them. By charting, you get a good view of the situation and can analyze the situation better. Also, by not speaking in the "underground" of the issue, you save time and energy for your professional work and pursuits. The evidence you collect may be of value later when it becomes clear that you should speak up, or may serve to clearly illustrate that the bothersome issue is none of your business or professional concern.
Teachers, new and seasoned, have to be cognizant of the underground of rumors, stories, and information that exist, and use professional judgement, respect, and care when dealing with situations of this nature.