Time for reflection with colleagues is for me a lifesaver; it is not just a nice thing to do if you have the time. It is the only way you can survive.
~ Margaret Wheatley
There are times when teaching isn’t fun. At all. Maybe it’s a mass of paperwork, unexpected meetings or a confrontation with a student. Or maybe it’s just a bad day. When nothing you try seems to go right. I can think I have a handle on being the most organized person around and it all goes south in a minute when students don’t responds as anticipated. Now what? Not a fun day. At all.
To minimize these events, I try to stay connected to colleagues and bounce ideas off them. People I know, trust, and respect as educators and people. Not only do I offer ideas, I gain insights and see things differently when I’m around these people.
Later this week I’m meeting with two of these colleagues, Eric and Bridget. And I can’t wait. Why? Because I know I’m going to learn new things, be challenged as a teacher to think creatively, and become a sharper educator because of their influence.
These are teachers much younger than I who may lack my experience but who brim with ideas and energy. I look forward to these meetings and encourage them. It’s by meeting with fellow teachers whom I respect and trust that I grow as an educator. They keep me sharp in my thinking and adventurous in my lesson planning.
This handful of teachers I look to support me with innovative thoughts and thought-provoking questions. When submitting an idea for review, I expect the concept to be pounded out, questioned, trampled on and generally roughed over good. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to be challenged and asked to defend why I’m teaching as I am. I want to have to use my critical-thinking skills and problem-solving skills just as I ask of my students.
So who in your life holds you accountable in your profession? Who asks you the difficult questions? Who do you turn to when you need advice on anything from collegial interactions to dealing with a disruptive student? Who do you turn to when you want to share victories and defeats?
I also realize these people are going to make me work harder and think deeper than I normally do...which is a really good thing! No profession is easy if you want to be good at it. My level of effectiveness as a teacher equates with the amount of effort I extend. Surrounding myself with like-minded people, whom I consider better at the craft of teaching than I, makes me strive to improve myself and work harder to achieve more in the classroom.
I hope you have some colleagues with whom you have that type of relationship. Not “yes” men, but professionals who will treat you with respect yet won’t shy away from honesty. I am blessed by those in my life. I’d be half the teacher I am today without their input into my life.
Everyone needs someone in their corner. If you don’t feel you have a group of fellow workers you trust and respect, start cultivating those relationships now. They will make you a better educator and a better person. Trust me on this.