Our school day is designed for maximum face time between teachers and their students. The students are always at the center of learning, so this is as it should be. However, that design creates challenges to teacher collaboration and support. Teachers accept the responsibility and relish the autonomy of their classrooms, but without strong connections to each other, we can miss opportunities for feedback, new ideas, and collaboration which can lead us to our next best. We may also miss the personal encouragement that can shield us from teacher burnout.
So, what can we do to stay connected and strive for that next best?
Teach with your door open - Our district has a pineapple door hanger that welcomes visitors to classrooms, but even without the pineapple visible, doors are open and visitors are welcomed. If you visit, share a positive comment with your colleague and thank him/her for allowing you to share their learning space.
Share your great ideas/strategies/successes on social media, in the teacher's lounge, anywhere! Shout it from the roof tops! - We host teacher-led/teacher-choice professional development days so that great ideas are shared. Be brave and share your favorite strategies, tools, etc! If your school doesn’t organize these days with your faculty, offer to share a tool or 5 minute strategy/suggestion at the end of a faculty meeting. Teachers don’t always enjoy meetings, but everyone loves a new idea!
Take time to talk with your colleagues - Some of the best plans I have developed for our professional learning have come from talking informally with fellow attendees at conferences and other learning experiences. If you attend an experience with someone from your district, resist the urge to stick together. You are more likely to encounter new points of view by exposing yourself to new perspectives. This advice works within your district as well. Sharing our celebrations and challenges with others invites us to reflect and improve our work.
Share learning experiences by attending professional development together. Even if you attend different sessions, plan to meet up for lunch and let the conversation naturally flow into what you’re excited about from your learning. Your teacher friends are wonderful at helping you to refine ideas into the best use for your classroom.
Seek as well as offer feedback and help- If you are working on a focus area/new strategy or a colleague expresses that he/she is doing so, offer to have a visitor or be a visitor if your schedule allows. Ask what your focus is as a visitor so that your feedback is helpful to your fellow teacher.
Expand your personal learning community using technology. Connect with educators from around the globe using Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Make connections and open your classroom up to the world. I am fairly new to using social media for my professional learning, but the value cannot be denied! Whenever I open my Twitter feed, I see new ideas, encouraging quotes, and learning opportunities. There are chats, face to face events, and online learning experiences that I otherwise might not have encountered.
I’m sure that the theme of these suggestions is clear: make time for each other because we truly are #BetterTogether! Wishing you all a wonderful 2018-19 school year!