Talking behind someone's back is considered rude and mean.
People say nasty things! Gossip, even slander. All kinds of
criticism from looks to work habits to personality.
The other day at lunch I was part of a whole group of
colleagues, and we were talking behind our boss's back. She's the
new principal of our middle school. It's her first year as our boss,
though she was "one of us" for some years. Pretty awkward position!
And we had quite a lot to say.
We talked about how kind she is to us. She hand writes notes to
wish us happy holidays, or to thank us for jobs well done. She
checks on us when she knows we're facing difficulties outside of
school with our health or with our families. We talked about the
good role model she is for the young women in our building. The fair
but firm way she treats students and parents.
All this as she is replacing another well-respected boss. His
shoes were hard to fill, and we talked about the fine job she's doing.
I thought about that after lunch was finished and we had gone
our separate ways. Sometimes we have the good fortune to be part of
another kind of "talking behind their backs." All too often, when we
talk NICE behind someone's back, they never know about it!
I sent her a quick email to report the conversation. She
replied saying how much she appreciated hearing about it, how it made
a bright spot in a tough week of testing and a death in her family.
I've done the same after such chats about the wonderful
custodian we all adore. We often talk about how lucky we are to have
her, but she's here after many of us are gone for the day. She was
delighted to hear it when I told her that so many teachers are
singing her praises.
When I overheard conversations about the retirement of our
superintendent -- an announcement that was met with sadness -- I
thought he should know how we felt. So I made sure he did.
I'm guessing a boss must be pleased to hear that his employees
are sorry to hear he's leaving and that they respected him and
appreciated the job he's done. Cards and emails are great, but maybe
it's just extra heartwarming to know that kind words are being said
even "behind your back."
I like to do the same for my students. Of course I give them my
own compliments, but I love to let them know when other adults have
noticed their good behavior and attitudes. I want them to know that
we aren't spending our lunch and meeting times complaining about them
ALL the time! I want them to know that we often express our pleasure
in working with this particular group of kids, and I want them to
I beam when someone notices how my teenage grandchildren are
turning into such fine young people. Then it's absolutely necessary
to let THEM know it too! I want them to know that people notice
them, and that it matters when what they notice is good and
I've known from the other side how much this can mean. I often
lack confidence in my own abilities as a teacher, so it gave me quite
a lift when a friend who works with families in the community
mentioned that he has heard several times from parents how glad they
are to have their kids in my class. It just feels more important
somehow to have the words said by people who don't know I'll ever
hear them -- when they can be totally honest. Great to hear it. And
great to share!
Sure, it's pleasant when we can say nice things about other
people. It feels good! And I think it's a special compliment for
people to know of the times when others are saying nice things even
out of ear shot.
Watch for your next opportunity to be the reporter! Make sure
to tell them about the nice things being said behind their backs!
Because how will they know unless we tell them?
~ Beth Fryer ~
<bfryer at nbn.net>
All Rights Reserved
Beth says, "I'm a teacher in Pennsylvania and spend my spare time
reading and loving my family -- both 2-legged and 4-legged!"