Back to School Survival: Building Rapport with and Making the Most of your School Family
It's Back to School time ALREADY!? Can you even believe that in a few short weeks students across the country will be heading back to class? I can already feel the excitement in the air, from the students and the teachers. Fresh bulletin boards are going up and plans are being made!
But IT is also there. In almost every school across the nation… and I hate to even admit it exists, but it does, and it can be crushing to teachers and administration. The Negativity. We all know it's there, and we all know something has to be done to stop it. It starts with you, just one you! The best way I've found to beat the negativity is to build relationships with my administration and the rest of my school family. Here are a few ways that I have found to make my year more positive! Do you have any to add? I'd love to hear them in the comments!
**This blog post is part of a GIGANTIC Back to School Survival Guide and a HUGE Back to School giveaway! Read through to the bottom to enter to win $1000 in TpT Gift Cards and learn tons of new tips, tricks, and ideas for starting the year off right!**
My second year into being the talented and gifted coordinator, I realized one day, half way through the school year, that I had completely and totally missed flagging a student who should have been evaluated for identification, based on her test scores. We usually had extensive conversations during the first quarter about kids who were on the radar, based on observations, recommendations, and test scores, and I had just missed this girl. I completely panicked because it was my job to screen these kids! I quickly realized that I HAD to go to my administration and tell them about the mistake I had made. There was absolutely no way around it, so I went. And… my administration was absolutely, completely supportive of my blunder. I'm certain that would not have been the case if she had received a parent phone call without me telling her what was going on.
This piece of advice goes along with always telling the truth. My first year, I remember getting a difficult email from a parent and being totally heartbroken that the parent (who's complaint came out of nowhere) had copied my principal on the email. I went in, again with my tail between my legs, nervous about what she was going to say. But all I found was support and advice. After that, I realized that it was better to stay one step ahead and keep administration and other involved parties in the loop.
Always forward questionable emails or correspondence between parents to an administrator who you trust. I would usually just forward the email with “FYI” in the body. Most of the time it was no big deal, but when it turned into a bigger deal, or I needed to chat with them later on about it, it was so nice to know they were totally in the loop.
We've all had that moment when our administrator walks in and our heart skips a beat. I frequently fumbled over my words or said something awkward like, “did you need me for anything?” before continuing on with my lesson. Then, I realized that if she needed something, she would say so, and likely, she wasn't going to walk in during the middle of a lesson if she needed something! So I made it one of my goals to never miss a beat when they walked in. I would nod and smile to acknowledge his or her presence but then continue on.
Even if you are doing something you aren't thrilled to have them see you doing, like checking your email or sitting at your desk, don't apologize, don't explain, just continue. Because if you felt like what you were doing in that moment was okay for your students, it is more than likely okay for your admin to see! Just think– what does it say when you have an entire class of students engaged in their own work that you have a moment to sit down? It means you are being an effectively engaging teacher!
After any informal observations, make it a point to pop in and casually ask for some feedback. Was there anything your admin noticed during their time in your classroom? Any kids who were particularly on or off task, a teachable moment you may have missed? Make it a learning experience!
It's important to participate and be a part of the school and school district. But learn your boundaries quickly and understand that it's okay to say “no” to something you don't have time for or are not particularly interested in. Our time is already stretched so thin, and yes, it's important to continue our development as educators, but you simply can't do it all. An excellent administrator or colleague will understand and applaud that, and it's better to say no than to not be able to follow through when you have over-committed yourself.
If you need help, ask for it! Ask your teaching partner, ask your coordinators, ask your administration. Ask anyone who you think can help! I have seen so many teachers try to muddle through something on their own when there are other teachers who could have helped. It's so hard to ask for help, but once you learn to ask for it, you'll be grateful for the time saved and the things learned along the way! As many teachers say, there's no need to always recreate the wheel!
…But when you ask for help, come armed with ideas and proposals of your own and ask for opinions on those!
Even if it's painful, pay attention during meetings. I know you have a million things to do and a dozen places you would rather be than a staff meeting (or a PLC meeting, or an IEP meeting, or…). Emails to write, papers to grade, lessons to plan, the future to educate! But be respectful of the meeting organizer's time, just like you hope your students will respect yours.
Maintain positivity about your group of students, even if they are challenging. Vent to a trusted colleague, but don't make that the ONLY thing you do. It's hard to want to help someone who is constantly complaining about their students (even if there is a lot to complain about). Draw out the positives in your group of students and leverage their strengths! The best teachers I know don't lose sight of their students' strengths, even if the challenges seem insurmountable.
Levels of collaboration may vary among teachers and schools, but it can start with you! Work together. It's really better. What more can I say?
Disclaimer: I am fully, completely aware that you can't beat all the negativity. There will always be those colleagues who see the bad in everything and the good in nothing. But I implore you to not be that teacher, even when it seems like the easiest thing to do. I did not write this with the intent of being a “teacher's pet” or to imply that I am always positive. Definitely not. But these are a few things I have learned over the years about having a positive year and a happy relationship with colleagues at your school. I remember the first time I met the principal at the school where I was student teaching. I was visibly shaking, as if I had met a celebrity! She was the woman who could make or break this experience for me, and one of my first shots at a recommendation letter for the jobs I would be applying for in the spring. I quickly realized that administrators, in most cases, are just like us! For the most part, they are teachers at heart who are doing their best for children under sometimes unrealistic expectations.
Now that you're feeling all positive (I HOPE!), let's keep those happy feelings flowing with an awesome giveaway! I am giving away TWO $25 TpT Gift Cards for you to buy new teaching resources with, and some of my wonderful blogging buddies are doing the same! Enter here, and then hop around to read more back to school advice and enter to win their giveaways, too!
And if that isn't enough to blow your mind at back to school, check out my other posts with back to school tips and tricks!