I spend a good deal of time on Twitter participating in education chats. Just last week, I was at ASCD’s National Conference in Houston, TX and then over to Atlanta to work with an education company’s teacher panel. Every day, I chat with ten of my closest colleagues about what is going on at school, my classroom, and my life via Voxer. I am lucky enough to have educator friends through Scholastic bloggers. My friends over at #satchat are encouraging a Connect an Educator Day May 2nd.
These experiences and invaluable opportunities where virtually I connect with educators around the country and world started me thinking: am I connected to my coworkers who are right in my own building?
The truth is that I am, but we very rarely get the time to sit and talk with one another in meaningful ways. Minutes are eaten up with to-do lists and mandatory planning sessions. I started thinking back on the times when I have felt truly a part of the school culture, and times when I have been made to feel as though my contributions were special. Those are times when I felt uplifted as an educator.
We have all read the stories about teacher burnout from news sources such as The Guardian, The Atlantic, and The Huffington Post. The same reasons a teacher has for leaving the teaching profession are issues that we all struggle with. Those little uplifting moments and the wonderful connections I've made with other educators are what keeps me going through the hard times. Well that, plus all those adorable smiling faces, new crayons, and school pizza.
What can you do to improve school culture and create a happier environment that builds community and ensures you and your co-teachers will make it through the tough days? Here’s a few simple “happies” that have kept me motivated when I’m feeling down:
One Christmas, a good friend asked each staff member in the school to write down positive attributes and descriptions of everyone else in the building. She combined the words into a word cloud and then printed and framed each one. It meant so much to me that this year I did the same thing for the staff at my new school when we were trudging through mid-February without a break in sight. The result is a staff that is laughing, sharing, and thinking positively about those around them. Many people mentioned how touched they were, and how happy and uplifted they felt. The process was simple and inexpensive, but it had a powerful effect.
Make the process even simpler by passing around cards and having others write on them during a faculty meeting, or leave them out for others to swing by and comment. It’s something we don’t tell each other enough and can be a powerful reminder of how appreciated you are.
Too often we wait for a sickness or death to bind us together. This happened when one of our own faced breast cancer this year. The upside of such a terrible event is that we came together as a faculty to lend support and truly care for each other. Our school made a bulletin board and asked everyone to fill in leaves of encouragement and support. Something that could have been quietly tucked into a card instead became a powerful reminder of how much we mean to one another, beyond what it meant to our friend in need.
Each Halloween a fun "happy" will appear in my room. It might be candy or a small treat, accompanied with a note that now I should spread the love by two (make two more treats and anonymously distribute them), and add a note that I’ve already been "Boo-ed." But it doesn’t have to be Halloween (or any holiday) to take that idea and share happiness. Pick up a favorite candy and soft drink, or a really fun new pencil, add a note and drop it off at a colleague's classroom. Happiness spreads like wildfire.
Several years ago, my school started sending postcards though the mail to families. Each Friday we would mail a little note to families to share something great their child had done. The principal created similar cards for the teachers. They contained a checklist of outstanding traits or behaviors that teachers were observed doing or were known for. Without warning, teachers would come home from school to find recognition of their positive attitude, attention to detail, or extra effort sitting in the mailbox. As an adult, I took mine and proudly taped them to the refrigerator. I keep them to this day. Something so little and simple can support teachers and students in amazing ways. Take out a sticky note and jot down something cool you noticed. Put it on your coworker’s door and spread the love. Taking tiny moments can have a big impact.
Scholastic asks us to Share Possible. What is possible if we as teachers connect and support one another in little ways throughout the year? Maybe, just maybe, those small connections will not only strengthen us as educators, but also as people. And maybe that’s the key to keeping us in the classroom with those adorable faces longer. #SharePossible and join me (@bamameghan) in a conversation about how to keep our educators pumped up for the work ahead, and connected and happy through meaningful connections in and outside of our school.
How do you connect to others in your school and community?