Friday 30th March 2018
Usually these posts are meant to talk about a new activity I used during my lessons, unfortunately I barely taught any classes this weeks thanks to a combination of exams, holidays, and a whole lot of random tests our students must take every once in a while. So, the lessons I did teach were focused on catching up and I didn’t have the time to explore something new. However, I decided to still write a post but today it’s going to be about a whole different subject: colleagues.
Colleagues are the people who you see most in your life. Think about it, most people start working at 16, maybe even a little before that, I myself started at 11 as a papergirl and I haven’t been unemployed since. Since I started working full time I see my colleagues more than I see my boyfriend, family or friends. Getting along with your colleagues is pretty important no matter what your job is, but as a teacher? Well, it’s crucial that you have a couple of colleagues who you really click with.
I can hear you asking why and I’ll happily tell you but before I do that let me give you some background on how I perceive the concept of ‘working together’. I suck at it. Period. Now, people who’ve met me will tell you that’s absurd. They love working with me, however if you work with me it’s never a partnership, that’s because I’m too neurotic to entrust things to other people. When it comes to working in groups or pairs? I will do the lion share of the work; lots of people admire that, but that’s because they don’t know I only do it because I don’t trust them to do it the way I want. It’s the cold hard truth; I get it from my mother.
Now, I don’t necessarily think this trait is a bad thing, but when working with other people, and especially teachers; ehh it can get a little dicey. Like, co-teaching for example …. God how I hate that. When I teach, I want to be in charge and I want to make the decisions. Having another teacher there is aggravating and I’m extremely bad at sharing the spotlight. One of my friends from school, whenever we had to teach or present together, even came up with a system to prevent me from talking too much and taking over. Essentially, she’d just subtly hit me, hard, whenever she could get away with it; which was often, she was very sneaky, but I digress. My point is that I don’t really play well with others, I like working on my own. I can set the pace, I can make the decisions and if something goes wrong, well the only person who has to deal with the fall out is me.
But even though as a teacher you often work alone you are still confronted with your colleagues. You have sections in which you are paired up with all the other teachers who teach your subject. You have team meetings and ‘action groups’, you have activities that take place throughout the schoolyear and that you have to organize with the help of your colleagues. One way or another, as a teacher you need to know how to work together. And it’s of utmost importance that you have colleagues that you can work with. Colleagues that understand your quirks, your abilities but also your limitations. And colleagues that you can talk to or bitch at when the occasion calls for it. A buddy at work, who doesn’t necessarily need to be your closest friend; but still needs to be more than just a person you share oxygen with.
Teaching is an emotionally draining job that can take a lot out of you. Having people around to catch you when you slip up or offer you a shoulder to cry and/or lean on when you’re down is very important. Those colleagues keep you sane. Of course, you’ll have support from all the people that you love but it’s your colleagues who can truly relate to your situation and who are best equipped to deal with the emotional fallout.
A good example of why having a solid relationship with your fellow colleagues is important is what I like to call the ‘parent trap’, not in any way related to one of the most awesome movies ever made. Because you’re dealing with children and, in my case, teenagers, students will often try to ‘parent trap’ you in the sense that they, when refused by you (parent number one), will try to get their way by appealing to one of your colleagues (the other parent) hence a parent trap. In order to avoid this and to make sure to be consistent when dealing with students you need to have a good working relationship with your fellow teachers.
It’s essential, when starting a new job, to make contact as soon as possible. Most teachers are outgoing people, so it shouldn’t be a problem. If you are shy, try and work up to the main event. If you’re afraid of striking up a conversation out of the blue, just start sitting with people at lunch at first to kinda get the lay of the land.
I do believe it’s important that when you try to build up a relationship with your coworkers you should try and talk about things that aren’t related to work. Because work is the one common denominator it’s obviously a hot topic, you can talk about students, bitch about your bosses and complain about the growing workload however, it’s way better to find moments to talk about completely different things. Talk about shows, movies, weekend plans, books, anything but work really. This will help to get to know the person behind the teacher. It will also, in some cases, make it easier to work with people if you know who they are and how they tick.
I for one am a very lucky person; I’m still on my first job and I came into a school filled with amazing people. My colleagues, although they all have their quirks, are pretty damn awesome and with the risk of sounding awfully cliché it does feel like we’re a kind of (dysfunctional) family. Not only do my colleagues inspire me, they often give me the strength to get through the day. A shoulder to cry on, words of advice or a basketball to the face (long story) my colleagues have my back; I can count on them and they, in turn, can count on me.
In conclusion: colleagues are important, you see them more than your own family and so you should make an effort to get to know them. Try to find colleagues that click, people you can relate to and whom you get along with. When building a relationship with your colleagues make an effort to avoid work talk. Don’t mention students, the long hours or the amount of correction work still waiting for you; talk about your interests and experiences, get to know each other as people, not just as colleagues. As a teacher you need a solid safety net around you, and colleagues are an important part of that safety net. But like any other relationship in your life you have to work on it and make an effort.