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Happy Labor Day weekend, teacher friends! I hope you are getting some much needed REST and precious time to love on your loved ones! There ain’t NO tired like Back to School teacher tired! Am I right or am I right?!
Today’s post comes straight from the heart, and stems from 12 years of teaching experience, 15 different teaching teammates, and many classroom assistants. I’ve taught in both low and high income schools, on teams as small as two and as large as five, three grade levels and a specialty position. Very rarely, in fact, did I go two years in a row with the exact same teaching teammates, and I’ve learned A LOT along the way. Happy teacher teams aren’t developed by expecting others to change and mold to your liking, and truthfully, the happiness begins with YOU.
Here are my Top 5 Secrets of HAPPY Teacher Teams!
Does every single one of your students learn in the SAME way? And more importantly, do we EXPECT them to? Well, why should a team of teaching professionals be any different?
If you think about it, why do we group our students with differing strengths and abilities in partners and small groups during instruction?
Say it with me… TO LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER!!!
Over the years, I’ve taught with every kind of teacher under the sun, from the Type A to Type B, from first year to seasoned veteran, from extroverted to introverted. Has every teacher had a philosophy of learning and instruction that matched my own? Absolutely not. And guess what? The world still turned, and children still learned. While what’s best for my students might differ from a teammate, we are ALL here for the kids, y’all, and our differences make us STRONGER. When teaching philosophies clash, take a breath, and choose your battles wisely. It is perfectly okay to agree to disagree. To be a happy team, we do not have to be on the exact same page of our instructional timelines at the exact same time. We DO need to make an effort to value and respect one another’s opinions and ideas.
I might ruffle some feathers on this one, but guys, humility is IMPORTANT, not only in the teaching profession but in leading a life of service.
This is hard for some teachers to accept, but we are NOT the experts in everything. I’m willing to put money on the fact that each and every teacher on your team has a strength that is greater than your own, and more importantly, something that you can LEARN from to help you grow in your practice. Don’t believe me? Try observing each of your teammates in their practice, preferably within their strongest instructional subject. I was not encouraged to do this until my fifth year of teaching, and I have two words for you: MIND. BLOWN. I mean, I THOUGHT I was a pretty strong teacher, but it turned out I had a lot to learn. I still embrace that mindset today, and jump at any chance to observe teachers and learn from them.
And while we’re on the subject of egos, lets touch on the joys of HAPPY team planning.
Stand on your chair and shout with me:
EVERYONE WANTS TO FEEL VALUED AND IMPORTANT!
When a teammate shares his or her idea, take time to acknowledge it and thank them for sharing. Ask them to email you a copy or run you a master copy for your files. Do you have to go straight back to your classroom and use the idea immediately? No! The fact that you respected and valued that idea is what’s important, and it sets the tone that other teammates should do the same for you. Not to mention, you never know when you might need to pull that idea that they shared out of your back pocket.
Your mentors are surrounding you, friends. You just have to search for their strengths and use them to better yourself.
You become most like the five people you surround yourself with, and negativity can be contagious and toxic. It takes a BIG PERSON to take the high road and back out of gripe fests, and an even BIGGER person to keep it professional. Do your very best to not exclude teammates from important decisions or team events. Lift each other up during difficult and exhausting teaching days. Compliment, thank, and hug your teammates often. Our days can be difficult enough with students, and our teacher friends can and should be our saving grace.
Need some advice for some things that the HAPPIEST teachers do every day?
This advice was given to me by a dear friend after a particularly difficult year. Small acts of kindness go a long way, not only to foster positivity, but to win over more challenging teammates. Make a point to put others before yourself. Offer to make copies, save a seat for them at faculty meeting, or bring them an extra Starbucks every once in awhile. By all means, don’t overdo it, and don’t force a “bestie” relationship, however, showing that you care for a teammate will most certainly pay off. It’s like laying stones along a path toward trust and collaboration. This is especially true for first year teachers and teachers new to a district or building. It can be especially difficult to mesh with a new school culture, and by committing small acts of kindness, you are proving that you take time for others and are “in it for the team.”
You know I’m gonna say it, because I always say it…
YOUR TEACHER FRIENDS SHOULD BE YOUR BEST FRIENDS!
Now, are they all gonna be your best friends who meet you for Happy Hour on Fridays? (Oh, how I miss the days before small children!) Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a genuine effort to connect with teammates on a personal level. Each day, try to make a point to ask each teammate about something going on in their lives, whether it be their family, or a hobby, or the fun vacation they just went on. Are they struggling with a family tragedy or illness? Text them on the weekends to ask how things are going or how you can help. My biggest “life moments” have all been celebrated with my teacher friends, and I’ve been consoled by them during my saddest moments. The kindness and compassion of my teacher friends during those moments are permanently etched in my memory. Be there for your teammates on a personal level (as well as a professional level) and your efforts will undoubtedly bring you closer.
I hope these “secrets” will encourage you to choose JOY and bring positivity to your teaching team!
Take care of each other, y’all, and savor your long weekend.
But first, go text a teammate and tell her you appreciate her. 🙂
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