Teachers, We’re Not Supporting Each Other Enough

Here’s how we can do better.

Teaching can be an isolating job. It’s often a career where we all disappear into our own rooms and are given few opportunities to enjoy the bonding of collaboration that is a daily part of so many other careers.

With this job, there also comes a great deal of scrutiny. Some days it feels like we’re spending most of our time dealing with the latest educational acronym rather than improving lessons to better serve our students.

But here’s the thing—we have to support one another. All too often, I see teachers criticizing or being negative to one another instead of offering teacher support. So let’s all take a few moments to use that energy we give to our students each day and share it. Let’s spread a little love around through teacher support and see if we can’t just raise morale a few points.

 

Let’s stop blaming the teachers who came before us.

It’s easy to do—blame last year’s teachers or those who moved on to other jobs— for the deficits our students may have. We all do it. Senior teachers blame everyone from junior year back to ninth grade. They pass it down to junior high teachers, and down it goes. We need to remember that each teacher from Pre-K to post-secondary is trying. Contrary to some public sentiment, nobody stays with this job to have summers off. They stay because they want to teach. Let’s all give each other the benefit of the doubt, meet our students where they are, and try to help.

 

Let’s start using social media for good.

I have written before about teachers’ use of social media before, but this is an even more important lesson. We have to stop posting on social media about how much of a headache grading papers is, or worse, about personal frustrations with a student. Sure we all have bad days that we need to vent about, but the power of sharing positive stories is so much better than the negative ones. Celebrate a great lesson, talk about being excited to teach a certain unit, and create positive stories about those great moments of being a teacher. 

 

Let’s pay it forward.

Our school store sells coffee for one dollar. It is the best deal around. They have a remarkable selection of Keurig cups, so everyone can tailor their daily coffee to their own personal tastes. I am not sure I can explain the power of buying someone else’s coffee. It is something most teachers really rely on; it’s something they enjoy; and it’s cheap. For one dollar, or whatever your school or local coffee shop charges, you can say a lot to a colleague. Hang in there. I respect what you do. Screw administration. It get’s better. I really enjoy having you as a colleague. Whatever. Buy that coffee for a fellow teacher.

 

Let’s collaborate more.

This may be the most challenging, because it requires holding off on grading that set of essays, cleaning the paste off of the desks, or even opening your prep period for helping students. But sometimes we just need to leave our classrooms in search of our peers. This has been a personal goal of mine, and so far this year, I have sought out advice on “partner essays,” lifted weights with a gym teacher while discussing writing across the curriculum, spoken a bit of Italian, and mooched some artwork for my classroom. Each of those examples has offered me another colleague with whom I can share a smile.

 

Let’s pass along good things we hear from students.

Students often share praise indirectly. “I loved that class,” they will say in passing when another subject or teacher is mentioned. Just the other day, a student in my class confided to some other students that his chemistry class was the first time he got excited about learning. It took a few minutes for me to track his chemistry teacher down after school, but he lit up when I told him. Those moments are too good to miss.

 

Let’s hear it for us!

We root for sports teams. We cheer for our children, for outcomes of elections, for personal accomplishments, for weight loss, and new homes, and births, and raises, and silly games. Let’s cheer for each other now and then, in whatever form suits us best. Let’s show the world, and more importantly each other, just how awesome the teachers of this country are.

Posted by Jeremy Knoll

Knoll is a public school English teacher of nearly two decades. Outside of the classroom he spends his time working as a freelance writer or exploring the outdoors with his wife, two boys, and dog. He loves the subject he teaches so much that he named his dog Atticus and got a half-sleeve tattoo depicting a scene from Maurice Sendak's WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE to celebrate the birth of his kids.

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