The Big Picture: Our Colleagues.

We’ve never really done a “series” per say here on Two Writing Teachers, but it seems that this week our posts have the makings of a series about what really matters when it comes to education. So we’re making it official, and for the rest of the week you’ll see posts around this topic.

On Sunday, I wrote The Big Picture. On Monday, Stacey wrote What Are You Chasing? And so today, The Big Picture Series continues with some thoughts about colleagues.

Today I was talking with a woman who just started as an elementary principal in a school district she has never worked in. What struck me in our conversation was that she defined her staff as happy. Hmmm . . . I wonder how many schools across the country (or even across the globe) would define their staff as happy.

Yet, isn’t this part of the big picture — to be joyful in our work? So that got me thinking — how can teachers become happier? I think it is, in part, how we interact with our colleagues. Here’s some of my initial (meaning this is brand new — so it may change) thinking:

  1. Encouragement. We spend much time in our classrooms encouraging our students, yet often we forget to encourage the adults who surround us day in and day out. A simple affirmation, note, or even a piece of chocolate goes a long way in putting a smile on our colleagues’ faces.
  2. Common Courtesy. This is tightly linked to encouragement. I think sometimes when it comes to those closest to us, we forget common courtesies. I know it happens with me . . . sometimes I take it for granted that my husband does the dishes every night or that my mom buys me a gallon of milk from time to time or that a colleague passes along a great rubric or a stellar lesson plan or a timely solution to a problem. We must be adamant in our quest to recognize the kind things our colleagues do on a daily basis and then remember to say thanks.
  3. Attitude. It was Charles Swindollwho said, “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” This is so very true. It doesn’t matter what happened in the meeting before school or what we hear on the news or even the unrealistic mandates placed before us. What matters is our reaction to these things. We have a choice — minute by minute — to choose to be positive or, well, grumpy, disheartened, whiny. Our choice often effects those who teach next door. Try it today, put on a smile and see if those around you seem happier too.
  4. Teacher humor. I believe in the healing power of laughter and am so thankful to work with people who have outrageously amazing senses of humor. However, humor is one of those things we must use responsibly. Too often, humor is based on cutting remarks, degrading students, or putting down our profession. This week, as we think about the things which really matter (and having a good laugh ranks high on this list) let’s be hyper-sensitive about the things we are laughing at — are they building up or hindering?

One of the things I’ve learned the most through blogging with Stacey is how teamwork lifts the level of productivity and enjoyment. I am a better educator, a better person, because Stacey and I work together to improve writing instruction in our own classrooms, as well as classrooms that span the 872 miles between us and beyond. We are successful in our quest, because we practice these four things — encouragement, common courtesies, positive attitudes, and appropriate humor.

These things don’t just lead to happier teachers, but to creating a team of colleagues who achieve more together than they ever could individually. And that’s part of the big picture.