George Lucas Educational Foundation

Should Venting About Students be Banned?

Should Venting About Students be Banned?

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Teacher in a faculty room

Recently I received a response to a blog post about shared teacher workspace. The comment, from a teacher at a private school, casually mentioned that they have a no-venting policy at their institution - that venting about a student is considered the same as talking about them behind their back.

I was flabbergasted.

No venting?

But, getting together with peers and talking about students is a teacher staple! It’s up there with drinking too much coffee and saying “Face the front!”

In all seriousness, this policy was a shocker. But, when I gave it more thought, and did some research, the idea wasn’t as bizarre as it first seemed.

First, I found an article on Psychology Today. The article acknowledged that venting had healthy properties. For instance, venting is helpful in releasing pent-up negative emotions. However, the positives are counterbalanced by a number of significant concerns:

  • Venting gives the venter the false sense of achieving something - it feels like problem-solving, but really isn’t
  • When you vent often, you get better and better at it and that will only lead to more anger in the future when encountering similar situations has this to say about venting in the workplace:

“The average employee either vents or hears someone else vent about four times a day, according to Kristin Behfar, a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.”

“The worst thing a listener can do, the researchers found, is agree with an angry co-worker. ‘When you feed the flame, it burns longer,’ says Brad Bushman, an anger expert at Ohio State University’s School of Communication. ‘Listeners who agree are just keeping angry feelings alive when the key is to let them die.’”

Venting in a school environment is a sacred cow that deserves more scrutiny. The teacher who initially introduced me to the no-venting philosophy, later clarified their school's position by saying there was no actual ban on venting. But, venting was strongly linked to the concept of student respect.

“We have a strong culture of respect at my school in the way we talk about students, even when they're not around, and check each other on it often. Processing emotions/talking things out is one thing, but a positive culture in your school should keep it in check so the students are respected even when they’re not in the room.”

And this is certainly an important point - genuinely voicing frustrations is one thing, but when it drifts into bully-like behavior, then a line has to be drawn. Having said that, I have been teaching for a long time and I have yet to encounter a teacher who crossed from venting into abject disrespect.

What is far too common is the frustration I have felt when particular students come up again and again in conversation and then nothing changes - there is never a discussion of fixes or solutions. Venting needs to be coupled with problem-solving strategies to ensure that whatever situation is generating the vexation is successfully addressed. We need to move forward and get off the ceaseless treadmill of merely complaining. 

What are your thoughts on venting? We would love to hear from you!

Originally posted at

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Katie Schellenberg, JD, MA's picture
Katie Schellenberg, JD, MA
Advocate, Lawyer, Teacher and Founder of Beyond Tutoring

I think there is a fine line between venting and looking for feedback from fellow educators. I think complaints are often disguised frustrations and calls for help.

Alex Shevrin's picture
Alex Shevrin
Teacher/leader & techie at independent, alternative, therapeutic high school

Hi there, I'm the commenter you're referencing, feel free to name me when you quote me :) I want to clarify that I'm not at a private school, I'm at an independent alternative school for students with significant social/emotional/behavior challenges. Our work is very difficult and as I mentioned, it's absolutely encouraged for people to be talking about their emotions and processing through them. What we discourage is venting in the sense of blaming students or families for challenges.

An example of an encouraged conversation: "Oh man, today was SO difficult with that student. He really pushed my buttons! Could you help me figure out a better way I could have approached this situation so he can be more successful in my class?

An example of a conversation we might discourage or give some feedback around: "Oh man, today was SO difficult with that student. He really pushed my buttons! He is so unmotivated and that mother of his doesn't even do anything. I am so sick of him acting out in my class..." and so on and so forth.

Hopefully that clarifies our practice, and to be clear, it's not a formal policy of any kind; more a culture we foster actively.

Jason Deehan's picture
Jason Deehan
Teacher. Author, Co-founder of Pursued excellence in Korea, Kuwait, Canada. Currently doing same in the DR.

Thanks for the clarification! Near the bottom of the blog post I mentioned that there wasn't an actual formal policy about venting. Your initial note was an intriguing jumping off point and the resulting blog post prompted some interesting discussion about what is and what isn't valuable/good in terms of discussing students. Thanks again!

Sandy Capitena's picture

I have taught for over 25 years, and believe that venting is sometimes necessary and useful to just "get IT out of your system." I agree, also, it often does not solve the problem......although I wish we COULD solve things in what is often a single class period. My great concern has always been when the venting becomes more of a verbal bashing/ bullying. How does one "assist" a colleague in recognizing the difference, without turning what could be a potentially helpful conversation into a criticism/critique of that person?

Tracy A's picture

I've been thinking about the same thing. I've tried asking, "What can I do to help you fix this?" Try to redirect a negative conversation and make it a positive one. My best guess for now. :O)

mrs_ihehlen's picture

I think you hit it spot on saying that venting needs to go hand in hand with problem solving. Else it can turn into just gossip.

HoustonTeacher's picture

At first, I absolutely shared your reaction to the "no venting" idea. But I like you began to come around on the idea. Not that no venting should be allowed, but we must do everything we can as teachers to harness our venting and channel it into something more productive. At the end of the day we are still the adults and they are children. We have to be mature enough to vent constructively not just rant, rave, and rail on students.

Adam Staab's picture

If education were an environment in which students beared sole responsibility for their actions (or lack thereof), instead of an environment in which teachers see what they can get out of students and pay a penalty if they don't get good results, venting would not occur.

Christina Gil's picture
Christina Gil
Former Classroom Teacher, Current Homeschooler and Ecovillager

I knew that it was time for me to do something different when I was starting to participate in "those d**n kids" conversations. I think it's okay to check on a student, like "He acts this way with me--did he do that with you?" in the spirit of looking for my own mistakes and faults.
I once worked at a school where the teachers would talk about what the kids did on the weekends--who was at what party and how drunk she got--I stopped eating lunch in the teacher's room and stopped talking to most of the other teachers.

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