As teachers, we frequently think about professional development and ongoing education, but how often do we look to the room next door?
While conferences and classes are great, and you should go to one whenever you get the chance, sometimes the best untapped resource you have as a teacher are the other people in the building standing at the front of their classroom. Here are several ways your fellow teachers can be an encouragement and resource to you as a teacher (and you can be to them). How many of them do you have at your school, and how many might you think about starting?
Learn How To Share With Your Colleagues Effectively
Working with another teacher in your school might actually help your ESL students become better speakers of the language – even if that person doesn’t teach English. ESL teachers have a problem – we make ourselves easy to understand. It’s natural, and our students are probably pretty happy that we do. It doesn’t take long for an ESL teacher to modify the vocabulary they use, their pronunciation, and their choice of grammar to help students understand what they are saying. And most of the time we don’t even realize we are doing it. It’s good, therefore, to get another teacher in your classroom to expose your students to another person’s style of speaking, someone who hasn’t simplified their language for the sake of classroom communication.
Create a Resource Bank
There’s no need to recreate the wheel, right? But that’s just what a lot of teachers do when they feel the need to create resources for every lesson they teach. If you have other English teachers in your school, pool together your resources. Make files any teacher can use, and include worksheets, tests, and other materials. Sort them by topic or by class. Then when it’s your turn to teach on that subject, take a look at the resource bank and see what materials others have already created. You’ll save yourself time and effort while also encouraging and helping your fellow teachers with the materials you share. (And don’t forget to check Busy Teacher and our thousands of free resources.)
Become a Regular Visitor
Classroom observations can be really stressful, but it’s a lot easier to have a friend and coworker sit in on your class before the principal or formal evaluator does. By inviting a colleague into class, you get a chance to pick their brain about your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. Take turns sitting in on a lesson or two, and give each other feedback on how well the information was presented, how the students responded, how you interacted with the students, the materials you used, and any other items that catch their attention. When you have another set of eyes on your teaching, you can learn more about yourself as a teacher, and when you watch others teach, you will naturally find elements they use that you will want to incorporate into your own teaching.
Your fellow teachers don’t just have to be a resource for ideas and teaching skills. Try just getting together to talk about what is going on. If you make a regular habit of hanging out, you will find an audience who can listen to your teaching woes and accomplishments and react with support and encouragement. If you like, set up a time to go out for drinks, have a potluck lunch once a month, stay after school once a week, and use that time to share ideas and stories. If you do, you may find the community that comes from your time together helps all of you steer clear of burnout and helps you release some of your frustrations in a healthy way.
One of the biggest encouragements to a new teacher can be the help and guidance that comes from a mentor teacher. For new teachers, the classroom can be a bit overwhelming. That is where an experienced teacher comes in. Not only can that person help with classroom management tips, curriculum guidance, and answer questions, they can also be a social support to new teachers coming into an unfamiliar school and sometimes a new country. A mentor teacher is great for introducing a new teacher around to the rest of the staff and being a first step for a novice teacher making school a second home. If you don’t already have a mentoring program at your school, think about starting one. Talk to the administration about a formal program, or just take the school’s newest staff member under your wing and show them around. It just takes one person to start a mentoring program, and one person can make a huge difference in one person’s life as well as the life of their school.
Chat About It
How much time does a teacher really have for additional meetings and get together? If the answer is less than you’d like it to be, think about starting a private chat room for the teachers in your school or community. Allow members by invitation only, and use your blog as a platform to share successes and struggles, questions and insights. If you make it a habit to peruse the board every few days (even if it’s late at night, very early in the morning or even during a free class period) you will find yourself able to help and encourage your fellow teachers as well as get help and encouragement from them.
You may be the only teacher in your room, but that doesn’t mean you have to tackle teaching on your own.
Your fellow teachers are a great resource and can offer valuable knowledge and experience to you. In addition, you have experiences and knowledge they will benefit from learning. So before you sign up for that conference, think about what your coworkers have to offer and what you can offer them. You just might find that you all have a lot to offer one another.