Reaching Out – Teachers Teaching Teachers

Although teaching can be a reward, it also can sometimes be a lonely, and difficult job; therefore, you may need guidance or someone to talk to. Whether you are in your first year or fiftieth year, you can always find emotional strength, ideas for lessons, and guidance from other teachers. Following the five steps below can help you easily develop relationships with other teachers this summer. As Rusi Knobel my colleague and an experienced teacher said, “Establish relationships now. Don’t wait until you have a crisis.”

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I remember a story about a very young teacher whose students were throwing books when transitioning between activities. She had spent hours planning a jam-packed schedule but when activities changed chaos ensued. She was in a crisis and ready to give up teaching. Another teacher noticed and suggested to incorporate transition activities; such as singing songs while students packed their bags, or reviewing lessons as children put away books. Within days the young teacher regained control of her class and looked forward to a long career as a teacher. Why wait until you are in crisis like that teacher? Here are some ideas to help you find and create a relationship with teachers you can learn from. These include both my own tips and some from Rusi Knobel an experienced teacher and teacher adviser.

1) Past Teachers are Your Friends

Think about the great teachers we all had in school and consider calling them to share your joy of teaching. This worked well for a young teacher who called her own seventh grade teacher to share her excitement about teaching seventh grade. Later she came to a topic she wasn’t sure how to teach; the former teacher was there to help.

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2) Teachers Can Teach You

We can learn a multitude from our colleagues, such as who to go to for different forms and supplies, and how to bring up issues to parents. Some of your greatest resources are the teachers who share your room, taught your students in prior years, teach the same grade as you, or have decades of experience.

3) Learn By Listening

Many teachers enjoy to teach and talk so consider calling teachers in other schools that have taught at your school or teach the same grade as you. It is amazing how generous teachers tend to be with their time and knowledge.

4) Don’t be Afraid to Ask for or Talk to an Adviser or Mentor

As a new teacher you may be afraid to ask for help, and embarrassed by what you may not know. Remember that mentors, including those assigned to you by the school, were new teachers once. One of the most talented teachers I know mentioned that when he started, his department chair spent hundreds of hours listening to him, and offering guidance, support, and praise. Years later he doesn’t rely on the department chair, instead he is the one other young teachers rely on.

5) Care for Yourself

I believe when we feel calm and focused we are best able to learn and build relationships. Organization helps us do this. Set aside a specific time each evening to finish all your non-urgent phone calls/e-mails, errands, and paperwork. This way when things happen the next day,( which they will) we won’t be as hectic because yesterday’s work is complete. This leaves us calmer and with more free time to learn from or reach out. Through these five simple steps we can develop our own pack of fellow teachers to depend on and gain insights from. Like penguins we can jump into the middle of the pack for warmth, support, and guidance after the chill of a parent-teacher conference. When we aren’t sure how to present a lesson, like the young teacher above, we can find guidance from our pack. I hope you will join me and spend a few hours this summer to reach out and meet colleagues from your own support network.

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