By Teachers, For Teachers
Back to school season can be intimidating, regardless of whether you are a seasoned teacher or fresh off the college track. Making a good impression with your students, their parents, and establishing a good working relationship amongst co-workers can make your daily teaching experience run smoother. But how can you ensure you start off on the right foot and sustain that momentum?
On a recent TeachHUB post, I listed ten tips to help any teacher become a team player with his or her co-workers. I have since discovered five additional tips to help teachers begin the back to school season with success.
The most important tip is to be yourself. It’s tempting to look at what the other teachers are doing and emulate their techniques, but what works for them may not work for you. You are unique in your own personality, style, and gifts—don't be afraid to let them shine. Co-workers, parents, and students who see the real you (mistakes and all) are more likely to trust and come to you when needed. Be honest and admit when you don't know something or need help. Contrary to popular belief, teachers do NOT know everything (thankfully there is Google)!
Secondly, be approachable. Smile. Making yourself available through office hours, e-mail, or phone, shows you care about your profession and those involved. To clarify, this does not mean you have to answer every inquiry at all hours of the day. Instead, balance your availability with reasonable boundaries for yourself and others. Your personal space will be respected if you set these guidelines ahead of time.
Third, listen to what others have to say. This sounds easy, but often we are so caught up in the daily grind (or believe that every simple chat will require us to problem solve), that we don't really listen and/or give people our full attention. Remember that not all communication is going to require you to troubleshoot—sometimes people just need someone to talk to. Stop what you are doing, give eye contact, and truly listen. Taking the time to value the ideas, thoughts, and opinions of others is a great way to establish healthy partnerships with students, parents, and fellow staff. After all, sometimes you learn the most by simply listening.
Fourth, don't be afraid to compromise or make changes. I know there are many “my way or the highway” teachers, students, and parents out there that make teaching a challenge. As annoying as it sounds, listen to what they have to say and, if possible, meet somewhere in the middle.
Fifth, put yourself out there. I have met so many teachers who come to work, punch a time card, and go home. We know so little about them that they become the “mystery teacher”. Don't be a stranger—introduce yourself and open up to your students, parents, and co-workers. I am not saying you have to be best friends (certainly not with students or parents), but letting people know who you are is a good thing. You can do this by personalizing your classroom with items that describe you, talking to other teachers in lunchroom, mentioning something you like, and of course taking the time to talk to students or parents you bump into at the local grocery store. Stop hiding behind the produce! Let them see you are human outside the classroom. It’s a proven fact that students who know a few personal details about their teachers tend to feel more relaxed and comfortable in their learning environment. Maintain professionalism, but allow room for your personality as well.
Above all, realize that you’re not alone. It’s easier to put your best foot forward when you understand that each person you connect with at school is chasing the same goal—especially at the beginning of the year. Smile, be friendly, listen, compromise, and be yourself. Everything else will fall into place and before you know it, the school year will over and you’ll end on the same high note with which you started. Happy Teaching!