Collaboration Among Colleagues
Meghan Riley and Katelyn Stoner
Collaboration among colleagues is a noteworthy skill as a first-year teacher. Coming straight out of college and student teaching, you might think you attain all the knowledge you need in order to become a successful teacher. However, this is not the case but rather it is the opposite. As first-year teachers we should expect to be taught just as much as we’re trying to teach our students.
Being the “New Kids on the Block” (not the band) we are quickly learning that teachable moments arise not only during instruction. These moments occur during passing periods, during team/faculty meetings, while using the beloved yet hated copy machine, and even when you’re getting your daily caffeine fix from the teacher’s lounge. It is clear that throughout the day we’re constantly interacting with our colleagues. And the attitude we choose to bring into these interactions affects the Zen of our school.
This being said, collaboration is an obvious key to being a successful first-year teacher. Here are some words of wisdom that have proven to be beneficial for two newbie’s.
- If you’re sharing a classroom, go shake your principal’s hand and say, “Thank you.” Believe it or not, this will end up being a huge asset for a couple reasons. First, you’ve been handed an opportunity for an automatic friend. This person will end up being a supportive staple and empathic ear in your daily classroom chaos. When your lesson flops during first period, you’ll have your classroom mate to talk things through during that measly three-minute passing period.
- Don’t think you’re alone as a first-year teacher. Other faculty members should be utilized as the valuable resources they are. We’re not just talking about your content area colleagues, but we mean teachers in every other part of the building. The social studies teacher next door who’s been here for thirty years has generations of trials, mishaps, and successes. Listening to his/her stories will teach you how to better your own instructional time and, more importantly, build that essential rapport with your students.
- Befriend not only administration but their administrative assistants, as well. Look at them this way: they’re basically the parents of the school. Yes, their bosses are really the ones in charge but if they didn’t exist the school would fall apart. Befriending them right away means you have another go-to person in those times of crisis. And remember to keep in mind that they truly are the eyes and ears of the school.
- Carve your niche! Making yourself invaluable will show you’re a volunteer and a team player (both of which your administration will appreciate). Raising your hand to be part of that committee no one else really wants to be on will give you that extra oomph, showing how collaborative and willing you really are. Plus, through these committees the staff will get to know you outside of that ordinary classroom environment and see you for who you really are: a leader. These committees will help you have a voice beyond what your students hear.
- You thought technology was only used to enhance instruction and engage students? Au contraire, newbie. Technology is a wonderful tool to use when collaborating among colleagues. Take GoogleDocs, for example. Not only is it a free version of the Office Suite, but it is an easy way to create, share, edit, view, and exchange resources with other educators in and outside of your building. Fun tip: you can actually chat live with your collaborator about what you are sharing and editing simultaneously. Another tech savvy way to exchange resources is by utilizing the surplus amounts of online professional development forums. There are countless online communities where other teachers are willing to share and exchange ideas, materials, and lessons. If you consider yourself technologically inept, don’t be intimidated but rather seek out personal help from your classroom mate or even that veteran teacher next door. It never hurts to ask.
Did you catch all that? We know all this information might seem overwhelming right now, but this is how your first-year teaching will be. Simply put: take bits and pieces away from this. It’s not possible to completely transform your style in a day. Give yourself time to process and view this advice as stepping stones towards becoming a better educator. Use what you need to tighten the nuts and bolts of your instructional delivery and to tweak the outlook about your new professional position in life. Finally, breathe deep and enjoy your roller coaster of a first year.