Like Roz and Sangeeta, I too am figuring out ways to strike a balance between work and life amidst the organized chaos of teaching. Teaching a different grade each year is a challenge. Every day, the joy of teaching is a juggling act: IEP’s, managing behaviour, integrating lessons, preparing materials and assessments, chasing down assignments, reporting, communicating with parents… It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, and I believe us teachers are doing our students and ourselves a disservice if we try to do it in the isolation of a single classroom.
Being new to a school can be a little isolating at first because one hasn’t had the time to develop the strong collegial relations that an established staff already has. Though every school I have taught at has welcomed me warmly, I have found that it takes some time to learn who your ‘go to people’ can be which can be complicated further if you’re using your lunch hour for work and others are busy making the most out of their time as well. Over time, I have learned that to start building collegiality and partnership is to start by asking. I ask questions. I ask if teachers are interested in collaborating. I ask if they can share. I ask if we can meet. And I offer too. I offer what I have and the skills that I bring. After all, partnership is give and take. Through the power of collaboration I am learning that I able to be more attuned to the things that need to be done, while feeling less fragmented by all of the balls that are flying in the air.
This year, I have been collaborating closely with one of my colleagues who has inadvertently become my mentor. We meet on a common prep time once a week and map out what our week looks like, share materials and resources and brainstorm ideas together. We build on each other’s ideas, pull out books to read, make to do lists, refer each other to helpful information sites, pull what needs to be photocopied, divide the labour and regroup halfway through the following week to reflect on how the students are doing, what we found challenging and share with each other what we would do differently. It is a wonderful partnership.
I can’t even begin to share what a relief it is to be able to collaborate so closely with an experienced teacher on such a regular basis. For one, my thoughts aren’t going into overdrive figuring out ways to organize the multitude of information that I come across daily. Because we approach the teaching of our respective classrooms as a shared responsibility, I can worry a little less that I may not have certain materials in the classroom to do an art lesson, or that I am missing information that needs to be communicated in a newsletter or calendar to parents (which is likely to happen if you’re new to a school or a newly hired LTO). I have a ‘go-to-person’ that can come to my aid or fill in the blanks, and this has been so good for my peace of mind. I am sleeping better and have the energy to accomplish all of the things that I set out to do with my students , and I think it is making me a better teacher.