As teachers, there are a lot of times that we just feel like we are drowning. As a naturally nurturing profession, we want to be supportive of other teachers. And we also want to support each other as teachers.
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We are overwhelmed at the beginning of the year, trying to get organized and start over with a whole new group (or groups) of students. Then we become overwhelmed as we get closer to the holidays and still have so much to do but with so much distraction. As the holidays are over and we return to school, we become overwhelmed with diving right into the rest of the year. And as the year comes to a close, we are overwhelmed that we aren’t going to finish nearly as much as we had hoped.
And those are only the biggest things. In day-to-day teachers life, we are overwhelmed over so many other things that pop up. Never a dull moment for sure!
So, how do teachers support each other through all of this, especially when all of the teachers are feeling it? And how do we support other teachers when we are so overwhelmed ourselves? The phrase “many hands make light work” is instrumental to the success of teachers collectively. And while other teachers may not be in your classroom with you, that doesn’t mean their support, advice, and other means of help are not.
After thinking about the times I was supported by other teachers, or times that I was able to help other teachers, and thinking about ways I wish I could have been helped, I decided to research and find out the best ways that teachers can support each other in today’s educational systems. Read on to find out what I discovered!
Note: Most of these forms of support work in just about any format–in the workplace and the home. Really, this post is more about relating to others in a helpful and compassionate way. So even if you aren’t a teacher, this is still for you!
Combine Each Others’ Best Experiences
When you combine all of the teachers’ years of experience in your school, you are getting upwards of a CENTURY of experiences to draw from. Even home schools can do this with the other home school moms and dads in your circle of support!
With support like this, you have an amazing pool of resources at your fingertips. Granted, all the advice, tips, hacks, or materials will not work across the board for your classroom.
All teachers are different. And all classrooms are different. But there is so much for you to draw from. And many times you can glean some of the best ideas by taking a snippet of the advice you are given, then turning it into your own creation. Sometimes the smallest bit of inspiration will turn into some of your biggest shining moments!
And because teachers are nurturing types (generally speaking), you will find nearly every single teacher in the world eager to share with your what has worked for him/her in their own experience.
And in the same vein, you are probably just as eager to share your greatest classroom victories as well. Seeing someone else succeed with your seed is one of the most satisfying parts of the job.
Verbalize Your Support
Generally, most people think that others understand how they feel about them. And indeed, we do give cues about that in our body language and many of the things that we discuss with others.
But if we do not directly verbalize our support to others, they may miss it. I know that I am the worst at taking hints. And when something is indirectly suggested to me, I am generally going to either totally miss it, or have multiple arguments with myself over the meaning of what was said to me.
So even if we think we are being clear in our support, verbalizing it is the best thing we can do to ensure that our support is clearly understood.
Scholastic published an excellent article that perfectly illustrates this issue. You can read that article by clicking here. If you don’t have time to read it, the gist is that there was a man that was a shining star in the eyes of his students and fellow teachers. But because nobody ever told him that directly, he never knew how they felt.
He just plodded through his teaching career doing the best he could but having no clue how much he was truly appreciated.
Let’s make sure that none of our fellow teachers go through that same experience. There is so much we can verbally praise each other for on a daily basis!
“Gossip” About the Good Stuff…
…but not the not-so-good stuff!
Whenever you hear a good word spoken about anybody, whether from a student, parent, other teacher, or administration, let the person being praised know about it at your earliest convenience.
When was the last time someone came up to you and told you what someone else had told them about you that they loved? It doesn’t happen often enough! Let’s make that happen on a regular basis. And, even better, you be the person out there spreading the gossip of goodness!
On the flip side, if you hear something bad about someone, encourage that person to go talk to the person they were bothered by. Don’t pass that on. Instead be an encouragement to all of the parties.
I know in the scheme of things this can be difficult. But to become the person that everybody knows they can trust because you won’t misuse information you get is such a treasure in today’s world of relationships. I can’t tell you how much richer life becomes when you do this.
Fight the Feelings of Isolation
Some people may not understand how teachers can feel so isolated when they are surrounded by so many people daily. There are 20+ students all vying for your attention at the same time. Teachers abound in classrooms and teacher student lounges. And then there is the rest of the staff and administration.
While this is all true, and many nights teachers come home just needing a bit of peace and privacy to recover, it doesn’t take away the isolation that is felt when they are single-handedly teaching in their classroom for most of the day. It is a very different type of “alone,” but the feelings of being isolated are very much there.
So what can we do about it? Schedule sacred time that you can just take a breather with other teachers (or even just other adults).
This can be 10 minutes daily that you can decompress with others who understand your daily routine and its ins and outs. It can be 10 minutes to pray with other Christian teachers/friends. Or it can just be 10 minutes to say, “hey, we are here for you, what are your concerns for this week?” Because it is a limited amount of time, you can schedule it in the morning, during lunch or a break, after school, or even for a bit in the evening if you all live in close proximity.
You can also schedule one day a week to eat together. It can be a potluck that rotates to different teachers’ houses or a park. Or it could be a favorite restaurant. The biggest criteria for this is not a whole lot of prep work. Just fellowship and support!
Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Struggles
I think that sometimes we feel like we have to carry the whole world on our shoulders. We can’t look weak. We have to look like we’ve got everything under control from day 1. But none of us does! We may have it together for some snippet of time. But nobody has it all together all the time. We all struggle!
And that’s okay–because it makes us human!
I can’t tell you how many people would ask my advice and I would tell them how I did what they were asking about. But I was also brutally honest about my shortcomings or what I needed to do to get to the point of what they were asking about. And so many of them would give a sigh of relief and say that they were so happy to hear that it was okay to be less than perfect. And it was even more okay for others to know that.
We are all human. And we are all doing the best we can most of the time. And that is okay!
I can 100% guarantee that someone else has struggled with the same thing you have. The circumstances may be a little bit different. But the struggle remains the same.
So share your struggles! Someone else will be so grateful that they are not walking this road alone. And that they are okay where they are at in their journey.
I can probably list about 20 more things that teachers could do to support each other. There are so many opportunities. So please see if you can do a few things this week to make someone else’s day brighter. And you will find your own day so much more fulfilling. Not because you got everything done in your lesson plans (does that really ever happen?) but because you put a smile on someone else’s face.
If you enjoyed this article about how teachers can support each other, you may enjoy my article on ways that teachers can be more encouraging to their students. Read that one here.