It’s been almost seven months since I shared my thoughts via a blog post. I was immersed in leading Littles’ through projects and there’s another little thing called a DISSERTATION that I’m trying to focus on. My summer? I really disengaged from all that I could to rejuvenate myself. (I don’t..WE don’t…ever do that enough.)
So. What’s on my mind?
Teacher Isolation. I’ve been talking to teachers a lot. Through my doctoral work, but just through my livelihood work. (And my own daughter has started her final semester of student teaching..so I’m reflecting on a lot. Like, how EXCITED I was to become a teacher and how EXCITED she is to join the ranks of the greatest calling…and gosh, as her Momma and a veteran teacher, I want her to avoid some of the pitfalls that make “us” leave this beloved context!)
I’ve also been reading transcript after transcript of interviews and case study after case study of research.
Teacher Isolation is a THING. It was a thing for me too. And? If I’m completely transparent? It’s still a THING for me, I’m just too busy to recognize it or be as bothered by it. (See above!)
“There isn’t anyone like me.”
“I feel completely alone.”
“I’m an outsider.”
Those are REAL statements. I mean y’all. If that doesn’t make you SAD? As educators, we are thrust into an autonomous role. Most hours of the day we are making decision after decision, alone. We are left to our own devices. It’s a weird juxtaposition–this autonomy, because–we are surrounded by others within a profession that centers around human interaction, yet we feel ALONE.
So what can we do, those of us who are leaders in our buildings, what can we do to LIFT those around us so this feeling of isolation is not man (or woman)–let’s say TEACHER made. It really can’t be that difficult.
L LOOK with your eyes and your heart. Both. Be aware of the teachers in your building. It’s trendy to say, “Everyone has a story,” but really? EVERYONE HAS A STORY. We discuss building relationships with your learners? Build relationships with your colleagues. Notice them. Sometimes a simple “How are you doing?” will mean more than the effort it takes to ask it. Notice where someone might be struggling and offer your assistance. What you can’t see with your eyes? Lean in with your heart. We have all been through “that parent,” “that child,” “that failed lesson,” “that surprise observation,” “that cold,” “that…whatever it is that changes our disposition, or our ability.” Teachers are actors and actresses, aren’t we? We shield the learners in our charge from everything going on in our lives professionally and personally.
I INVEST Invest in the people around you. I get it. We don’t have a lot of extra time at school to invest in the adults in our building. We have to do it. Whether it’s during your weekly faculty meeting or just a purposeful walk to someone else’s room. Maybe it’s “Shout Out” cards you place in mailboxes that simply say, “I saw you doing _______ today and I am so glad to be a teacher among you!” In order to invest? We have to know who we are investing in. Last year, I wrote hand written notes to some of my colleagues. Not a lot. Not every week. But, the response I received was immeasurable. Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, “How would I want someone to invest in me?” and then DO THAT.
F FACILITATE I know facilitate is such a buzzword in education. Facilitate means “to make easier.” There are so many things we can make easier for teachers that feel isolated. Planning, classroom management, parent communication, curriculum knowledge–. Sometimes teachers don’t know what they don’t know, so they aren’t apt to approach anyone for help. How can you make something easier for your colleagues? Get this..maybe it’s just HOLDING the door with a smile when they are lumbering in with a million Ikea bags slung over their shoulder filled with classroom supplies. (Yes. True story. I didn’t feel isolated as I reached for my badge to swipe the entrance thingy to get into the building. I was annoyed!…but imagine how making that little task easier would have helped the start to my morning? Sheesh.)
T THANK Thank those around you that get up every day and stand shoulder to shoulder with you. I mean let’s face it, we are all doing virtually the same thing as the person across the hall, around the corner, in the office. We are educating! So who knows better what that person across the hall, around the corner, in the office is experiencing, but ourselves. I’m not sure why we forget that. We feel we exist in a bubble–but really our experiences and feelings and doubts and annoyments AND celebrations–are similar. So take the time to thank those around you. It could be a simple verbal exchange or something grander like a “Take What You Need Wall” (Cool, right?)
Simple gratitude for just arriving and standing up for kids each and every day.
We rise by lifting others. So what can you do tomorrow to uplift? To LOOK, INVEST, FACILITATE and THANK those around you?