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Your Greatest Resource This Year: Your Colleagues

Jordan Catapano

So it’s finally time for back to school activities, and that whole feeling of freshness and excitement invigorates you. You’ve got your materials. You’ve decorated your room. You’ve organized your supplies. You’ve decided on your lesson plans. You even have a handle on that new technology you’re going to try incorporating this year. Good for you!

But as you begin your back to school activities, you want to make sure that you don’t overlook one of most important teaching resources that you’ll need throughout the year.

That resource, of course, is your colleagues. Those other teaching professionals will be working alongside you throughout this year and hopefully for many more years into the future. We teachers take so much pride in what we do, and the special relationships we foster with our own students, that sometimes fail to remember that the relationships that matter most are the ones we share with the people we work next to. As you head back to school this year, be proactive in utilizing your colleagues as resources.

Your fellow teachers are, after all, pursuing the same goals as you. They are your immediate on-hand partners who can encourage you, teach you, remind you, and inspire you all in the same day. While you certainly should be spending a great deal of time preparing for your students, consider some of the ways you can leverage your relationships with your peers to make you a stronger teacher.

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1.     Be Curious. Ask lots of questions of your colleagues. Inquire into their teaching practices, their perspectives, and their experiences. Ask, “What are you going to do when …” or “What do you think about …” The more you ask, the more their answers might surprise you with insights you would never have come to on your own.

2.     Be Nosy. The phrase “beg, borrow, and steal” is often used to describe how teachers acquire their materials. So do those. Look over peers’ shoulders, peek into their classrooms, and listen in on their conversations. Of course, do it all politely! Teachers love it when others take an interest in their contributions, so it is easy to ask for their materials and see how others are approaching similar teaching tasks!

3.     Be Contributing. Don’t just sit around and steal others’ materials and ideas, you leech! You should also identify some strengths of your own and freely offer your ideas to others. You don’t need to impose them on others, but you should look at how you can help facilitate an atmosphere of communal sharing.

4.     Be Humble. You’re a good teacher, but you’re not perfect (yet). There are areas of improvement for you. And as luck would have it, some of your partners happen to have the very skills you’re looking to improve in. Study them. Hang out with them. Acknowledge that you have areas you want to improve in and humbly learn from those who have traits you desire.

5.     Be Observant. There’s no better way to see how others teach than to just actually sit and watch them teach. Ask some of your colleagues if you can sit in on their lessons. This will give you privileged access to observing how teachers interact with students, utilize materials, and run their classrooms. Of course return the invitation and host other teachers in your classroom too!

6.     Be Listening. At your teacher meetings and planning sessions, you might be surprised at how much your colleagues can share of their materials and experiences with you. While sharing your own ideas is helpful to others, you can help yourself the most when you open your ears and let others do the sharing!

Above all, be proactive in discovering what your colleagues are doing and let them know that you appreciate them. Brag about them, thank them, encourage them. The more you facilitate healthy professional relationships with your fellow teachers, the more you stand to gain. While learning from seminars, social media, courses, and textbooks has plenty of advantages, there’s little that can top the day-to-day interactions you share with those teachers who surround you every day!

What are some of the best things you’ve learned from your colleagues? What do you hope to learn from them this year? Share below and we’d love to compare!