Teachers all strive toward the same goal: to help their students succeed. But teaching is hard work, and educators need to support each other in order to create a collaborative, uplifting community. Whether it’s through emotional support or stepping in with a lesson plan idea, there are many ways you can rely on other educators and create teacher support systems in your school and beyond.
Here’s how teachers can create a mutually-beneficial team that uplifts both educators and students.
Build Meaningful Relationships
Teachers who don’t know their colleagues well are less likely to depend on them for support. That’s why it’s important for teachers to connect to one another on a personal and emotional level. Sharing your successes and challenges in the classroom with other teachers can serve as an invitation for them to join in the conversation.
“Sometimes just asking fellow teachers how their day is going opens up the doors for productive and bonding conversations,” explains curriculum developer and education consultant Lily Jones. Teaching can be emotionally draining, especially after a student outburst. Leaning on each other for support shows you’re available to talk through everything — both the good and the bad.
When you’re working with a coteacher, these personal relationships are even more important. In addition to sharing ideas for teaching methods, coteachers should talk about their preferred communication styles, suggest educators Beth Kelly and Kathryn Caprino, Ph.D. at Literacy Daily. “Remain open to continuing to develop a communicative, working relationship with your coteacher as the year progresses.”
Once you know another teacher’s communication preferences, you can reach out to them for help. Professional relationships aren’t just about personal support, either — so don’t feel selfish about needing someone to vent to.
Studies suggest “a positive relationship between teacher collaboration and student achievement,” Carla Thomas McClure writes at District Administration. By promoting teacher collaboration in matters of curriculum, instruction and professional development, student success is increased. Some case studies cited teacher collaboration as the reason for dramatic gains in student achievement in previously low-performing schools.
Share Skills and Strategies
Teaching can sometimes feel like a guessing game, especially when you’re always trying new lessons and strategies to help learning stick. If you have a strategy that works particularly well for your students, it helps everyone when you share it with other teachers in your school, says the team at Best Colleges Online. It helps your own students by informing future lessons as well as the other students in the school.
Another idea is to share specific skill sets with other teachers, especially STEAM skills that help other teachers stay ahead of the game in a rapidly-changing world. One way to lean on fellow teachers outside the classroom is to find a TED-Ed lesson. These short talks are created by classroom teachers and cover a range of topics, including those focused on technology.
If you have a special tech skill you’d like to share, you can make your own video, notes high school social studies teacher Peter Paccone. Teachers can start a TED-Ed club or be nominated by another educator to film their own lesson.
You can post videos on the Teaching Channel too. It’s a nonprofit designed to promote free lesson sharing between teachers. At a more basic level, simply uploading a specific lesson to YouTube or sharing your tips on a teacher’s blog or podcast can get your lessons out to other teachers who are looking for that specific topic.
Help Each Other with Technology
Whether it’s augmented reality or new chromebooks, technology can seem distracting and sometimes overwhelming for teachers, especially when they’re implementing it in their classroom for the first time. That’s why it’s important to ask for help from other teachers who may be more experienced with technology.
Learning classroom management tips for effectively using these tools is essential for maximising their benefit. History teacher Tomas Rogers likes the idea of team teaching as a form of supporting other teachers. If you happen to have a tech-savvy teacher on your team, it can be a great way to learn technology teaching tips first-hand. Not only will you get hands-on experience with the specific technology, but you’ll also see how best to teach it to your students.
Another idea is to ask a teacher to film a lesson where they’re using a new technology. This can be helpful for teachers who want to ask for help from educators outside their school, or who simply aren’t able to attend a classroom team teach due to their own responsibilities. Teachers might even decide to host a monthly meeting where they get together and talk about new approaches to technology in the classroom, including what’s working and where improvement is needed.
In addition to sharing practical skills for using classroom technology, teachers can also discuss ideas for integrating technology into the classroom. “Some teachers may have creative ways of using standard technology, like Smart Boards, computers, or tablets, while others may have suggestions for new websites or apps you can use to test students’ understanding of a subject,” says the team at textbook publishing company TCI.
Ask for Help
When you’re in need of support from other teachers, asking for help is one of the best ways to get it. When you do, have a specific question or need in mind. This can open the door for creating a more collaborative school environment where you and other teachers work together to solve problems and make improvements, says education writer Kristina Rizga.
“When teachers plan classroom activities together, educators have a chance to implement improvements as a cohesive effort across the building, develop a shared vision and common language around learning goals, and learn how to detect outcomes using a broad range of data,” she explains.
Asking for help early and often in your career can also help establish a peer coaching model. Primary teacher Hazel Brinkworth says peer learning visits where teachers observe each other to learn best practices and learn new skills, are valuable. She explains that learning visits are a great way to develop a peer-to-peer coaching model, in which teachers “engage in professional discourse before, during and after the learning visits.”
Such practices might also give way to the creation of a teacher advisory council, which is when teachers work with teacher leaders to discuss and address issues facing the school district. The teacher advisory council at Lincoln Public Schools in Nebraska, for example, was designed to “open up a discussion of challenges, issues, questions and successes in the school district and to give the superintendent a sense of the major issues and concerns in the school district.”
Creating a culture where teachers feel they’re supported both by each other and the district can empower everyone. Specifically, it makes teachers feel that they’re entitled both to ask for support and to share their ideas. Ultimately, such support systems can help teachers work through difficult times and keep them in the profession longer.
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