Connecting With and Celebrating Your Fellow Teachers

by | 05.7.18

LaVondia Menephee is a school counselor in Houston, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LaMenephee.

As Teacher Appreciation Week kicks off, let me say this to my fellow teachers: I appreciate you all. So much.

This has been a tough year for my colleagues and me in Houston. For one, we started the year with Hurricane Harvey. Along the way, there have been days this year when a colleague has said, “I need a hug.” Because sometimes, there are no words, no quotations, no anecdotes. Sometimes, it’s just a hug.

Building connections with colleagues isn’t always easy – whether you’re a brand-new teacher or a veteran like me. I want to share some of my best advice for finding and strengthening those relationships – steps we can take, together, over Teacher Appreciation Week, during these last weeks of the semester and even over the summer. It’s worth it. Here’s how:

Tap into networks, inside or outside your school walls, that speak your language as a teacher. Make sure you’re on Twitter, because Twitter chats are great professional development (PD). You’ll find people you connect with all across the country, maybe even the world. When you find those people, reach out – don’t be intimidated or wait for them to find you. You never know what you might miss by holding back.

Think about how you can build new connections and grow that army of people loving and leading you. As a person who has run PD, I can tell you: People who train teachers are just teachers themselves. We love helping people learn and “sharpening iron” together. Make sure to ask for the Twitter handles and email addresses of your trainers. Exchange phone numbers with your tablemates and shoulder buddies. People who are in the learning with you are also in the practice with you – even if they aren’t in the same building.

If you’re a veteran teacher, keep sharing all you’ve learned. We need to recognize that we’re the old sages now, and we have a responsibility to share – so seek out any new teachers you can find at school or online or at the grocery store. They’ll be grateful for your outreached hand. And remember, we’ve all got more to learn. Open yourself up to those fun and sometimes scary opportunities to try new things in your practice.

And if you’re not a veteran teacher, you’ve got just as much to share. Believe me. I want you to look in the mirror and say, “I have learned some big things. I am worthy of being in a position of leadership and spreading my knowledge.” You can find out what your colleagues are interested in and help lead a PD on it. Or you can think about the new ways you’re connecting with your students and share it back with other educators who don’t have the same fresh perspective you do. We’ve all got a piece of the puzzle.

Have positive conversations about your students, especially the struggling ones. When you and your colleagues know the same student, always remember: We share this child’s future. We’ve got to bond over our love and appreciation for their potential.

Oh, this mission! I love it with my whole heart, but it can be difficult to do, especially on your own. When you’re a teacher, you’re often in one classroom all day, fully immersed in your students’ lives and learning. It takes a lot. You give and reset and give again.

That’s why it’s so important we carve out some time this Teacher Appreciation Week to focus on our connections with colleagues who matter so much. At the end of a long day, you’ve got to have someone with whom you can laugh and exchange accountability. It helps to be able to talk with a friend and say, “Let me tell you what happened today. Tell me if I’m wrong.” You have to find teachers who will encourage you and help you grow, so you can begin again the next day. And that’s what we’ll do – after Teacher Appreciation Week, after every week. We’ll happily begin again, because we have our students, and we have each other.

#ThankATeacher during #TeacherAppreciationWeek
LaVondia shared a message of gratitude with the Teacher2Teacher community, and you can click here to submit your own!

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