An educator will never forget their favorite teacher. I think about lessons that ignited an appreciation for education, encouraging words that guided me to reaching goals and merciful second chances to turn in late assignments or make up a failed test. Educators were once students and we may have taken for granted all the work that our favorite teacher did to provide a quality education.
It wasn’t until I became a middle school teacher that I understood why educators need to be saluted. The behind-the-scenes hours of lesson planning, grading papers, planning field trips, and advocating for better school supplies and learning environments are hard work. However, those challenging moments are the ones that I count most important because they enabled me to build positive relationships with my fellow teachers.
Being a successful educator takes professional community. During my first year of teaching, I immersed myself under the guidance of veteran teachers and administrators to become a teacher who could understand my students and would continuously grow my craft. This couldn’t have happened without the wisdom and humility to reach out for assistance.
We, as educators, do not know everything, but we do have the ability to ask for help, guidance and wisdom. Here are a few ways to build and grow positive and healthy relationships with fellow education professionals.
- Acknowledge great work. Be intentional and complement your colleagues. Notice their excellent work on a bulletin board or classroom management, the way they facilitate professional development, how they organize field trips or develop a consistent and positive two-way communication with parents. You can write a note and place it in their mailbox, send an email or even tell them in person. You’ll be the reason your colleague smiles and starts conversations with you. This simple acknowledgement can lead to an impactful connection.
- Listen to advice. Whether a veteran or a novice, all teachers can give advice and, if they are willing to share, you have the choice to listen. Not all advice will help you but listening to your colleagues and appreciating their unique perspectives is a meaningful form of respect. Then, when it is your turn to give words of wisdom, they will return the favor.
- Seek feedback. We must admit that when it comes to ourselves, not only are we subjective, but we also have blind spots. This can be both on a personal and professional level. Professional growth requires accountability, and we can be intentional about it by seeking a trustworthy colleague to give consistent and objective feedback, even if it feels critical. This can be through classroom observations, critiquing lesson plans, collaborating on a project or just discussing questions. The key is to avoid taking it personally. It’s about helping us grow.
- Work together. Two is definitely better than one and there are so many assignments you can work on with your colleagues. You can plan the next Black history assembly, coordinate a field trip, facilitate a family reading night and so much more. Working with a partner or team can alleviate or eliminate stress because one person is not responsible for everything. Everyone can have a role and avoid burnout. Collaborating can also deter competition and, ultimately, pride.
Effective teaching is no easy feat. It takes preparation. It takes revelation. It takes effective working relationships.
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