We need these things. We need to feel valued, protected and loved. We need to be given grace and support even when we don’t deserve it.
Yet where do we find this? For many people that answer is at home, with a significant other. Maybe with family, friends, church or social groups.
But what about at work? Especially for teachers…
Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours away from home, away from the people who are supposed to give us the connections and support we need. For educators, work not only takes most of their waking hours away from home, but many more hours even after they leave their school. It’s hard to turn of your brain in our profession, and on top of all that...education can be a very lonely place.
While that might sound odd considering teachers are surrounded by students all day, there is something extremely isolating about being the only adult in the room. The single person making countless decisions for the betterment of the students. As a teacher, your job is to create a safe and engaging classroom culture built to support the students...not the other way around.
So where can you find support? Where can you find safety? Where can you find a shoulder in hard times and partners to celebrate with in good ones? Where can you find someone who understands the feeling of being heartbroken over a student’s homelife? Where can you find someone that can empathise with the challenges of grading papers, planning for weeks in advance, and being asked to do one...more...thing...from your principal? Someone who will listen for the sake of offering an understanding ear, and not to give you fifteen pointless solutions you have already tried? Someone who just gets it...
The answer: Your team.
Most educators work within a team...grade level, department, office, administration, counseling, specials, instructional support, special education, english as a second language, and many others...yet how often does that team become one of connection, relationships, support and understanding?
Whether you are starting a new year tomorrow, or are six months in, I want to encourage and challenge you to embrace the idea of focusing on the amazing power of a team.
The power of a teammate working side by side with you as you struggle to find the best path for your student’s success. The power of a teammate making sure you know she is there, right next door, if you ever need anything. The power of someone who can sit down and fully comprehend what you are feeling, both good and bad, and can offer encouragement that strikes the heart of the problem without judgment or persecution. The power of shared vision, a shared purpose, and a shared love of learning. The power of hope and grace when mistakes are made. The power of laughter and joy, a helping hand when you are sick, and someone to jump up and down with you when that student finally wrote his name correctly. The power of someone to accept you as you are, mistakes and all, because you are both on the same journey.
While the power of a team can be unbelievably empowering, getting there is often challenging. After all, educators are only human. Drama, rumors, negativity, frustration, and life in general can often create barriers and hurdles within a team. Often things that would seem to be little concerns on the outside can quickly become like ankle weights holding you down: How many times can she forget to make copies for everyone? Why does he always wait for the last minute to get his kids ready for the end of the day? Why does she always change the team’s plans at the last minute? She won’t share her ideas. He won’t join us for lunch. She comes in at the first bell and leaves at the last, never even trying to work with us. If he says these kids can’t one more time I am going to scream.
Whatever the hurdle might be, whatever the challenge is, a powerful team will conquer it. For teams with a teammate that seems to be more of an ankle weight than a support system remember these two things:
1. Silence is often seen as agreement. In other words, when a teammate is complaining about something or someone, and you silently listen afraid to confront the issue yet disagreeing on the inside, remember that often your silence will come across as agreement to the negative teammate. This often creates a sense of empowerment for this person, and he or she will often use your name as an agreeing partner when confronted. If fact, it often sounds like this: “Jessica and I were talking and we both agree that our team leader is under qualified and horrible at her job.” While the reality is that Jessica was merely listening, and could not disagree more with that statement.
2. Negativity without encouragement cannot survive. It may not go away immediately, but when negativity is met with a positive counter, grace, and a willingness to confront the problem, it lacks the capacity to grow. This often leads to either a change of heart, a change of profession, or a change of schools...but either way, it can’t survive.
In the end, creating a powerful team takes a unified understanding that we are in this together. Once a team embraces the belief that we are stronger together, and we will overcome any challenge together, anything is possible.
We need these things. We need to feel valued, protected and loved. We need to be given grace and support even when we don’t deserve it, and it is a team that can provide this for you. Your team can protect you and comfort you, it can build you up and give you strength.
In education, the power of a team can be the difference between a successful teacher, and one that leaves the profession after a few years. The power of a team can ensure the success of our students, and can help build a school culture of love and support. So once again, I want to encourage and challenge you to embrace the idea of focusing on the amazing power of a team. If you do, I can promise both you and your students will be glad you did.