The word ally is typically defined as a nation or state cooperating with another for a military purpose. As with most words it of course has been expanded for many uses but retains the meaning of being on your side. So the question I ask you today is, as a teacher who are your potential allies?
From the minute I enter into my school I have an amazing opportunity to make allies, get people to support the work I do with my students, school and community. Allies are everywhere but like countries you must take the time to build up relationships to develop those allies. When you do that, they will be there when you need them most. I am going to talk about several key allies that I have in working with my students and how without them there are many things I would have much greater difficulty accomplishing.
The first ally is of course the parent(s) of my students. Let’s be honest, we both really want what is best for a child even though we may not agree on how to accomplish that. From the moment I know a child is going to be in my classroom I reach out to families to try and start building that working relationship. It starts with a simple call home the week prior to school welcoming them and their child to my classroom. It continues on with my first Weekly News letter home by asking them to brag about their child as they know them best as well as asking them to prioritize two goals they would like their child to accomplish this year. This helps sends the message they are a part of the formula to create success for their child. I continually update them with sunshine calls home, weekly news updates, inviting them to attend events in the classroom and any other way I can include them or make use of their expertise and assistance in my room. Of course not every parent becomes my ally or totally agrees with every decision I make. There will be some parents who just won’t or don’t engage in your efforts. This work I put into recruiting parent allies always pays off with some very strong relationships that are there when I need them most.
The second set of allies I work hard at creating are with the school support staff such as our office manager and custodial team. These are key people who are the heart and soul of the school and can be there to support me in many situations when I need the help. One of the most unique request I made of our custodian was to have our front classroom door taken off so my class could create a drawbridge door for our Medieval Times study. Needless to say I had to have a strong relationship with that person to make and receive such a request. Our office manager (and every office manager) is the heart of the school. He/she is the first and often last person everyone sees when coming to our school. That role is so important and my class spends time on a regular basis showing how we appreciate the work she does. That time and effort has helped me many times over the years when I need a last minute request or forgot some important deadline.
The final ally I want to talk about is a community-based position. My class spends time doing service learning projects and as such we need to have people who trust that I can take a group of 8-11 years old out into the community and perform projects that enhance our community. I have worked a lot with city environmental personnel who over the years have come to value and trust our staff and the request we make. There are community agencies and people who can also become a potential ally for you.
As I began to change the lens upon which I viewed my classroom I began to see more and more how many potential allies (support) I have available to me. I do not have to do this on my own. My educational team continues to grow as I grow relationships and take advantage of the opportunities they can provide me in supporting my students and my professional growth. Allies do not just happen, you must work at creating them.