Guest Post by Katy Gibson
Anyone you ask, even non-teachers, will agree we are experiencing a new and challenging time. Numerous teachers I have talked with in-person and online, are very overwhelmed with all this new information and getting ready for the school year. I believe collaboration with coworkers and your professional learning network (PLN) will both be very important for this school year. It was already important before, but I think it will play a bigger role this year. It helps you gain new ideas, continue to learn, and keep tabs on your students. We are all learning new things this year, and it is overwhelming at times and adds extra stress.
However, if you build a supportive team at your school then you will feel more supportive and ready to take on the year. Here are some tips for you:
Share Your Expertise: Recently my school purchased Schoology to be used in the new school year. I have never used this new platform, but I am pretty good at learning new technology tools quickly. I am newer to my district as well, so not many people know me yet. I found this to be a great opportunity to help others in my district out. Schoology allows teachers to make groups, so my school made a group to give Tech Support throughout the year with Schoology. I began making videos that are 5 minutes or less on new ideas that I find on Schoology. I also have offered to make videos based on the questions I have received from my colleagues. I feel that if one person has a question, there might be others with the same one. So I encourage you, find something you are an expert in to share with your other colleagues. Find a way to share that information, and it does not have to be videos as I did. This will help build community within your building, and let other educators know they are not in this situation alone.
Work with Others on Your Grade Level or Subject Area: I know some schools provide structured time to meet with your grade level and/or subject area. However, not all schools are structured in this manner. I feel most supported when I know I have these individuals to collaborate with students, lessons, and new ideas for our community. Collaborating on what is going on with our students is very impactful. We can share data, information on behaviors in the classroom, and if we have communicated with their families. In a time where your school district could be hybrid, 100% online learning, or face-to-face education it will be important to keep tabs with other educators in your building on the latest information. Talk with your grade level team, and try to stick to similar routines, make sure schedules do not overlap, and create norms for students. If you can’t meet in person, maybe create a Voxer group, collaborative Google Doc, texting group, etc. There are so many options out there to explore.
Share Resources: We tell our students “Sharing is Caring,” so even as educators we should share with each other. Most of us are incorporating new technology apps like Learning Management Systems (LMS) this year. We are going through a learning curve, and many educators are creating information to share with students to train them on the new apps. If you are creating an infographic, digital book, video, Google Slide, etc for your students consider sharing it with your colleagues as well. They may not have thought to do that and would want to share with their students as well. This could help promote others to share their resources too!
My softball coach always told my team “You might not get along off the field, but as soon as you cross that line you better work as a team.” This applies to us educators, you do not have to go as far as being friends with your coworkers. However, it does make the job more fun but unfortunately, it does not always work out this way. Teamwork will benefit you as a district and your students.
In my experience, when students know you get along with your colleagues they feel more welcomed in their building. Also, having a school building with great collaboration can help with teacher isolation. When you are able to talk to people within your building, you feel supported and have people you can rely on. I know this is not always feasible in every school building because of the environment, so the next best thing for you would be to find a professional learning network (PLN) on Instagram, Facebook groups, Twitter, etc. Just remember for this year, think positively, do your best, and everything will work out okay in the end.