Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back to the Future: New Teachers Building Relationships with Veteran Teachers by Sharing Ideas

Building relationships with veteran teachers can bring rich rewards to first year teachers. As I remember my first year, there were plenty of veteran teachers in the school in which to build relationships. One of the veteran teachers in first grade would drop by my classroom while I was teaching. With my back to the door and facing the children, sometimes, when I turned around, voila, there she would be, standing in my room with her hands on her hips. She would smile at me, look around for a little while and then leave, slipping away as quietly as she had entered. Sometimes I would worry about what she was thinking and if I was doing something wrong. But through the two years I worked with her, I realized I needed to build a relationship with her. I buried the worried feelings I had by telling myself she was just interested in what I was doing. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I would go to her room and talk with her. She shared ideas and I shared mine. I learned she was an "old-maid" and was simply very interested in the lives of other people. I only worked at that school two years, but ten years later while eating family night supper at church, my life crossed paths with this particular teacher again. I was tickled to learn she had married. However, her love of knowing about the lives of other people had not disappeared.

To all the new teachers, I advise you to build relationships with veteran teachers. It won't happen without intentionality. Make an effort to get to know the people with whom you are working. If necessary, establish a specific time to meet. They can offer advice related to discipline and curriculum. They can share ideas and provide support and encouragement. They can answer your questions about school norms. This veteran teacher never knew that she planted the seed of willingness to share ideas with colleagues in me. From the two years I worked at Mamie Brosnan, one of the things I learned about sharing ideas was---if someone can take an idea that I have shared and make it bigger and/or better, I'm thrilled. I'm honored. I consider it a compliment. I'm thankful that I have helped someone else. Share your ideas. It's through sharing that we all learn more.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Back to the Future

I began my career in education teaching first grade in an inner city school, one with the highest poverty in district, Mamie Brosnan Elementary. Many of my students had never attended kindergarten and some had never learned to cut with scissors or hold pencils. Almost every child in the school lived in the housing projects that surrounded the school. I was fortunate to have a para-professional. Like me, it was her first year as an educator. Although she did not have a degree in education, she had an understanding of the growth and development of young children as the mother of two young children. She was eager to learn about "teaching school" and was a very hard worker. We were a great team. I loved working with her. Many of our experiences during that first year laid the foundation for my career. At the time, I had no idea how much the year would serve to shape my career. There are many experiences from that year that I want to share...therefore, I have created a series of posts related to this topic.

My classroom was located across from the office. The principal came into my room regularly....mostly just to say hello, and to check to see how things were going, but often times, he would ask my opinion on things he was pondering or wanting to accomplish. I remember how important he made me feel by asking me, a first year teacher, what I if I knew something! Whether I knew anything at all about the issues that he was dealing with, really didn't matter. What mattered and what I learned from this was how important it makes someone feel when you ask their opinion....and how important it is to visit classrooms often...because it is within these drop by visits and through these informal conversations that relationships are is built...confidence is gained and the seeds of teacher leadership are planted. It shows that you care and there is nothing more important than caring.

Today, as I reflect on how much I appreciated the principal asking my opinion, my thoughts, and my ideas, I am reminded that it's not just young, first year teachers who appreciate this opportunity for input, but all people appreciate this. I'm also reminded that our students appreciate this opportunity too. As the school year approaches, try to find out what your students are interested in, what their passions are.....ask their opinion about what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.....then try to teach the concepts they have to learn through their interests. Show you care and they will learn.