Teachers are just as fond of cliques as students are. We get comfortable. We commiserate with those sharing our struggles and our hallways. But just like student cliques need to break up from time to time, so do teacher cliques. It’s good to branch out. Developing new relationships often leads to fresh ideas and a renewed sense of teamwork.
When my school became an International Baccalaureate program this year, every teacher had to re-interview for his or her job. Morale plummeted as loyalties splintered. Now we face a chasm with longtime veterans on one side and the 30 new staff members who replaced their friends and colleagues on the other. It’s a far cry from the culture of mentorship I called for in my last post.
How can veteran and novice teachers bridge gaps like this one? Here are three simple tips you can use right now, all of which have recently worked for me:
- Find a reason to visit an unfamiliar teacher’s classroom. Pick a teacher you don’t know well, and ask one of their students about a specific lesson. Tell the teacher you heard about their lesson (even if it didn’t get glowing reviews) and you would like to observe some time for your own development. Then follow through and thank them.
- Switch up the seating at faculty meetings. In class, I rotate my cooperative groups every six weeks. Why should faculty meetings be so comfortable? I once made a great move by sitting with the P.E. department just to mingle. Guess who later supported one of my school-wide reading initiatives with fervor?
- Co-facilitate a book study or demonstration lesson with someone in another grade or subject area. You don’t need to co-teach all year, but why not pair up with someone on the other end of the career spectrum for a smaller project? Highlighting one other’s individual skills gives a professional development session richness and relevance. It also blurs the lines between mentors and mentees.
I have one last suggestion. Learn as many teachers’ names as possible. Don’t our students feel better once we know them? Nothing builds relationships like greeting someone with eye contact, a smile, and the right name. There’s nothing to fear. High school is so over.