Recently I was talking to a new teacher and she told me that she finds it helpful when experienced teachers reach out with helpful suggestions about her teaching methods, class management and assessments. She mentioned how it’s so easy for teachers to feel knocked down in the media and that we should really focus on building each other up.
Creating a safe space for students is part of our job but it’s not the only part. It’s so important for us to create a safe workplace for ourselves and our colleagues. We can build trust with one another by forming relationships that have positive connections.
I really appreciate those colleagues who were unofficial mentors in my early years of teaching. Elementary education in Ontario went through a lot of change in the 90s and I sometimes felt like my head was spinning. Through the changes in curriculum and restructuring I had some of the kindest people around me at the 4 schools I taught at in my first 5 years.
In my first year, I was encouraged and lifted up by my peers to start a new club. We called ourselves the Green Team and we helped with environmental initiatives like recycling, composting and waste audits. I’m sure there must have been some eyebrows raised about what I was doing but no one ever questioned me or put me down. My class studied the Green Team statistics in data management and science. The school was recognized as a Green School as all classes jumped on board with the new programs being introduced. It built my confidence as a new teacher to have support from the staff and admin.
At another school we worked with parents and created a naturalized space in the corner of the yard. Students could run around the native shrubs and plants. Again, I was encouraged and lifted up by the staff to pursue this project. We incorporated lessons on measurement and perimeter as we designed the space. It gave us a safe space to observe plants and insects that would not have been part of the grass and pavement yard that existed previously.
Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. We each have our own passions and can benefit from sharing them. I’ve had many staff members over the years who have offered teaching suggestions and class management ideas. We continue to grow and learn and support one another.
I hope you are feeling encouraged by your colleagues and that your workplace is a safe place to try new ideas and share your passions. If you are sharing a positive work experience in your social media you could tag #teachingmakesmesmile. On those days when you need a boost you could look through the posts and be reminded that our profession is pretty amazing on its best days.