Elementary school teachers face constant adversity in a high-stakes, emotional environment. As a result, job satisfaction and performance are inexorably tied to the quality of the workplace and the working relationships we cultivate there. Building collaborative, meaningful relationships among coworkers is a great way to dissipate tension and keep the learning environment friendly and productive.
Sometimes, we as elementary teachers can grow increasingly frustrated when our hard work isn’t recognized. It takes a lot of work to maintain a healthy and productive classroom, and the lack of appreciation can sometimes feel stifling. The truth is, nearly every teacher feels the same way. That’s why it is especially important to take a little time to recognize one another for accomplishments both in and outside of the classroom.
There are tons of easy ways to recognize our peers. Taking a lunch for a coworker’s birthday, sending a note or email of congratulations to a coworker who wins an award, or simply acknowledging the great job an organizing teacher did with a club or extra-curricular activity — these are all easy ways to foster relationships among your coworkers. Practicing the art of acknowledgement is also often returned in-kind; the more we recognize others’ good work, the more likely they are to recognize ours.
Volunteer When Necessary
Empathy is a key ingredient to fostering positive relationships. A great way to show empathy is to recognize difficult periods others face. For some teachers, the start of the school year is the most hectic time of the year. For others, the special events happening mid-year is the toughest. And for many, the build-up to the end of the year can be an insanely crazy time. By offering to help with some of this workload, we can easily show empathy towards our fellow teachers and help ease them through their most difficult times.
Alleviating some of our peers’ workloads can also help the rest of the work culture thrive. If, for example, an extra hand helps a field trip run more smoothly, it helps dissipate teacher burnout, which, in turn, helps students see the best side of their teacher. When we’re all at our best, our schools are at their best, and the atmosphere improves dramatically.
Seek a Mentor/Mentee
For new teachers, asking for help can be intimidating. Some take on too much; others might get spooked by the workload. The best thing a new elementary teacher can do is to request assistance from a more experienced teacher. Building a relationship with another educator is a way to both improve the teaching craft and adjust to new environments. It also helps newer teachers and staff members feel like a valued part of the school family, involving them with an already established part of the community.
On the flip side, longer-tenured staff members might find that stepping up to mentor a struggling new teacher can be equally rewarding. Mentoring promotes a positive environment and allows older staff members to pass on their years of wisdom to the next generation. It is also a great way to meet new people and continue to be involved with school activities. Building relationships with younger teachers promotes a giving, reciprocal community spirit. It’s well worth the time it takes to serve as a mentor.
Building Relationships That Matter
As we tell our students, it all comes down to the Golden Rule: “Treat others how you would like to be treated.” Whether it be lending a hand to a staff member who is bogged down in work, asking for assistance from a seasoned teacher, or celebrating the recent conference presentation by the unsung co-worker; building better working relationships begin with the most simple steps.