Monday, September 14, 2015

becoming a professional (part 2): working with others

The days of teaching "with your door closed" are no longer viable. Teaching is a collaborative effort, and for the better. New teachers can draw on their experiences during student teaching, when increasingly the model is to use co-teaching to support teacher candidates (and students!) during the student teaching experience. Co-teaching is one aspect of the collaborative efforts in schools, though there are many other ways that teachers need to work with others. The teamwork aspect of working in a school can be challenging but so rewarding. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when beginning your work with others in your new school (or to re-frame your work in your current school, for those with experience!).
  1.  Working with others, and guidance from your peers, can help increase your self-efficacy. You may think that it is easier to keep your concerns, struggles, and failures to yourself. But sharing these with colleagues, and getting effective advice, can help make you more successful. Your colleagues are full of expertise and experience - find ways to tap into that.
  2. Sharing ideas can save you (and others) time. Yes, working with others can be time-consuming. But when you tackle new projects together, and share what you develop, this can save all of you time.
  3. Understanding the school goals can help you be a more productive member of the school community. Spend some time now, if possible, understanding the goals of the school. When you know these goals, and have thought about how your work supports the goals, the better able you'll be to dive into the work of the school. Knowing the school culture, history, and goals is an essential part of being part of the community.
  4. Know that what you say and do is important to how others view you. Think about what you say and do, and do what you can to show others the capable, hard-working, respectful, responsible person you are!
  5. Focus on student learning. Keep that running through your head as you work in the school and with others. It should be the top priority.
  6. Ask for help! Similar to the first point, it is ok not to know things. It's ok to ask for help. Your colleagues expect it when you're new (or even if you're experienced!). 
  7. And, on the other hand, be willing to help when others need help. Showing yourself to be quick to help will be a good thing for you in a new school.
  8. Remain open-minded. This can be hard to do at times, but is so essential when working with others in a school. There is almost never one "right way" to do something, and you can always learn from others' expertise.
What do you keep in mind when starting a new job or beginning a new collaborative project with others?

Reference: Thompson, J. G. (2009). The first-year teacher's checklist" A quick reference for classroom success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

new beginnings

Whether you are already well into your academic year or just beginning, in your first, or third, or thirteenth, or thirtieth year of teaching, this poem can be meaningful at the start of a new school year for us all.

Blessing for a New Position

John O'Donohue
from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (2008)

May your new work excite your heart,
Kindle in your mind creativity
To journey beyond the old limits
Of all that has become wearisome.

May this work challenge you toward
New frontiers that will emerge
As you begin to approach them,
Calling forth from you the full force
And depth of your undiscovered gifts.

May the work fit the rhythms of your soul,
Enabling you to draw from the invisible
New ideas and a vision that will inspire.

Remember to be kind
To those who work for you,
Endeavor to remain aware
Of the quiet world
That lives behind each face.

Be fair in your expectations, 
Compassionate in your criticism.
May you have the grace of encouragement
To awaken the gift in the other’s heart,
Building in them the confidence
To follow the call of the gift.

May you come to know that work
Which emerges from the mind of love
Will have beauty and form.

May this new work be worthy
Of the energy of your heart
And the light of your thought.

May your work assume
A proper space in your life;
Instead of owning or using you,
May it challenge and refine you,
Bringing you every day further
Into the wonder of your heart.