teacher cliques online

The Teacher Club

When we think of cliques, we think about high school students. But what about high school teachers? Many students at Tam are caught up in their own lives, oblivious to the social web created by the adults on campus.

Students may be surprised to hear that the very same people who map out the periodic table or lecture about the French Revolution are also hanging out, eating dinner at each other’s houses, and having brunch on the weekends. Out of the 20 teachers interviewed for the article, all of them stated that defined social groups exist amongst staff at Tam.

With assistance and insight from a few of Tam’s accomplished educators, I was able to get an inside look at teacher social dynamics.

Whether a part of social studies teachers Jon Hartquist and Aaron Pribble’s “all inclusive squad” of 15 teachers who eat lunch together in Wood Hall, or chat with science teachers Alyssa Sandner and Jennifer Brown in the science building, teachers congregate in social circles exist in every building.

Math teacher Margie Brindley referred to “cliques” among teachers as a division. “In addition to how we are divided by department, I think that a lot of the teacher groups are determined by geography and where the classrooms are in accordance to one another… It could just be that we’re lazy and don’t want to walk all the way across campus [for lunch,]” she said.

Several teachers agreed that many of the social groups are dictated by the geography of the classrooms as well as the departments they teach.

“I know that I don’t really talk to teachers outside of the science department and those in the general area or building…I also know most of the teachers that started at Tam the same year [as I did],” Integrated Science teacher Laura Valentine said.

Another factor that contributes to the divides making up the teacher friend groups at Tam is that many teachers hang out with those who have been teaching at Tam for the same amount of time. Those who have been here the longest and those who are new and aren’t as well known throughout the social web.

“I’m more familiar with those that are temporary or joined the school more recently, like me,” English teacher Amanda Spaht said. “We eat lunch across the hall [in upper Keyser,] in the staff lounge.”

On the other hand, Hartquist said, “These are some of my longest standing friendships,” primarily referring to the group of teachers that eats lunch in his classroom. Hartquist has been a teacher at Tam for 15 years. But are these long-standing friendships exclusive?

“I tend to hang out with the big group in Hartquist’s room,” social studies teacher Dr. Claire Ernst said.  “We always eat lunch in there. I certainly would like to think that we are all-inclusive but I’m not sure whether other teachers feel that way.”

The friend group mentioned by Ernst is one of the most well-known groups, consisting of those who eat lunch in room 152 in Wood Hall, Hartquist’s room. This group includes teachers from a variety of different departments, including counselors, too. However, teachers from the science and art department rarely show up.

“Many of the people that eat in my room have been doing it for almost 15 years now, a lot of different people…and, you know, it changes all the time…I think that the word on the street is that we’re an exclusive group, but I think that’s incorrect,” Hartquist said.  “We would never shut anyone out.”

Many of the teachers who eat with Hartquist have known one another for several years, sharing nicknames, inside jokes, and teasing each other about their habits. “If you want to know the truth, it’s a place where people come to decompress about their day,” Hartquist said.

The amount of time that these adults spend around teenagers who tend to be hormonal, moody, energetic, obnoxious, and everything in between is almost as much time as some of us spend with our friends.

“It’s such a weird job; we spend so much time with you guys,” Hartquist said.  “When we spend so much time with teens it makes it a weird job and it helps to talk about it at lunch…I like teaching, but that’s a large component of it, the social part. I like the people I work with.”

I wondered how the excessive time around students impacts how teachers act around one another, and whether our adolescent immaturity rubs off on their daily lives and social habits. What I found is that the student behavior that teachers hush and criticize so often during class can be reflected in their own behavior during lunch breaks when they hang around people their own age.

Ernst said, “[Teachers] have nicknames [for each other], make fun of each other for little things that we do…Teachers also text each other, interrupt, be obnoxious, work on unrelated things…which is all behavior we do see in students every day.”

   So, students, pay attention and you’ll notice how we aren’t the only ones with specific social groups. It’d be interesting to join the lunch squad in room 152…if I were allowed. I’m not sure what this social dynamic says about human nature or our tendency to spend time with people similar to ourselves, but hopefully this provides some insight as to how our teachers aren’t really that different from students.

I asked Hartquist why he thought teachers tend to gravitate toward his room. He replied, “We are the coolest ones here…no I’m totally kidding.”




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