Saturday, April 8, 2017
Teachers Supporting Teachers
Today I was asked by a teacher friend to help her with her national certification. I was floored that I was even asked to help. I can’t remember when I was asked by another teacher for help with something that didn’t directly relate to the classroom. This got me to thinking about how often teachers don’t ask each other for help.
Now I must admit that I am a bit spoiled. I have taught in 9 different school programs in 20+ years of teaching. The team with which I work is one of the best teams I have had the honor to be apart of. I think that this is because we created from scratch the program we work in. Prior to 2009, virtual education in Wyoming on a large scale didn’t really exist. We have had the honor to build our program’s policies and procedures from the ground up. Because of this, we have our “battle scars.” But we have built trust among our team. Unfortunately, this has not been the norm in my experience. I have seen teachers that purposely sabotage other teachers. I have seen administrators purposely betray teachers for their own gain. What does this get us ultimately? A very toxic work environment in which students pay the price.
Only a fool would think that a teacher has an easy job. We teachers do more than just teach reading, writing and arithmetic. We are coaches, counselors, and confidants for our students. But burnout happens. Sue Roffey, author of “Teacher Wellbeing: Five Ways to Help Each Other,” states that: “Many teachers give so much of themselves they may feel their buckets are empty and they have little resources to draw on” (2016). Jill Rooney, author of “10 Ways to Inspire Your Colleague as an Educator” echoes this sentiment “There are days when we just can’t recapture our enthusiasm for teaching, or have to cover a topic for the millionth time, or are struggling with a class that just doesn’t seem to get it” (2013). Very few people can understand the depth of issues that a teacher deals with, except another teacher.
We teachers should be each other’s support. It doesn’t take much to show support to another teacher. Derrick Meador, author of “The Importance of Effective Teacher to Teacher Communication” suggests that we teachers should “never let an opportunity to show kindness or encouragement to others to pass” (2016). It doesn’t take much to praise another teacher. “It makes a significant difference to wellbeing when someone shows that what you did is acknowledged and valued” (Roffey, 2016). In my previous blog, Positive Feedback, I quoted McCarthy, author of the “The Power of Positive Feedback, “Positive feedback is so powerful and yet so rare. People crave it and when they receive it, it can change their performance and their life.” (McCarthy, 2017). This is as true for teachers as it is for students.
Listening is an important activity that we teachers can do to support each other. This does take a few minutes of our day, but the impact of listening really outweighs the “loss” of a few minutes. Brenda Ueland, author of “Tell Me More about the Fine Art of Listening, states, “When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life.” (1993). Having someone just listening can help another teacher through a tough time. Think about when you have had someone really listen to you and how you felt afterwards. I teach in a virtual program, so we don’t have a copy room to hangout and chat while making copies. Every so often, I will get an IM from a middle school team member asking if I have a minute to listen or if I can schedule a call. I always make that minute. Most of the time, that teacher just needs someone to listen. Something has happened, and they need to talk. Usually, after a few minutes, the teacher is feeling better because I took the time to listen. “It is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way” (Ueland, 1993). Being listened to helps to rejuvenates the soul.
Although listening is very important, it is equally important not to start engaging in negative behaviors. It is very easy to go from listening to gossiping. “Don't allow gossip to rule your life. In the workplace, morale is vitally essential. Gossip will tear apart a staff faster than anything else. Do not engage in it and nip it in the bud when it is presented to you” (Meador, 2016). Gossip creates distrust and a hostile work environment. I don’t know anything more destructive and toxic as a workplace froth with gossip and rumor. I worked in a school that the teachers thrived on gossip and rumor. It got to the point where I didn’t want to go to work, so I started not wanting to be there any longer than I needed to be. No one wanted to be there. Even the students knew about the teachers that would gossip. They didn’t want to be at school either.
In order to make school a positive environment for students, we teachers need to support each other. We need to listen to each other without judgement. We need to feel as safe at school as we want our students to feel. We teachers are a team - not just someone in a classroom. How we teachers treat each other creates the school environment.
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Roffey, Sue. "Teacher Wellbeing: Five Ways to Help Each Other." Teacher Wellbeing: Five Ways
to Help Each Other. Growing Great Schools, 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 12 Mar. 2017. <http://growinggreatschools.com.au/teacher-wellbeing-five-ways-to-help-each-other/>.
Rooney, Jill. "10 Ways to Inspire Your Colleagues As An Educator." InformED. InformedED, 5
Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2017. <http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/10-ways-to-inspire-your-colleagues/>.
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(2010): n. pag. Web. 12 Mar. 2017. <http://physics.uwyo.edu/~ddale/research/REU/2016/Tell_Me_More.pdf>.