Friendships are important. Work is more enjoyable when you like the people who you are working with. Work is more fun and enjoyable when you have positive and trusting relationships with your colleagues. You will be more excited and enthusiastic to go to work, if you enjoy being with the people who you work and teach with. So, it’s important to get to know your colleagues and begin to develop strong working relationships – especially after being remote or socially distanced for the past 18 months.
While it can be harder and more challenging to meet people as an adult and when you are working, it is not impossible. Here are some ideas to get to know your colleagues:
Start a Conversation:
It can be difficult to meet new people as an adult. And, when you are in a new situation, it can be difficult to spend extended time speaking with others – small talk can be hard to maintain and when you are at work, there is always something that needs to get done. But, it’s important to try and have conversations with your colleagues. One idea is to ask someone you have just met about their hometown. This allows them to respond in a variety of ways – where they were born, where they grew up, or where they are currently living. It can also spark a conversation on another topic entirely. For me, I always share that I am from Buffalo when asked about my hometown – this often leads to conversations about the weather, how it was to grow up with so much snow, the frequency of snow days as a student, and the professional hockey and football teams.
There are often conflicting feelings about eating lunch in the faculty room. If you are able to eat in a space with others (it may be more complicated because of COVID) – maybe try having lunch with your colleagues a few times a week. It does not need to be every day, but a couple times a week can help you learn about the people you are working with. It also gets you out of your classroom for a little bit. If lunch doesn’t work for you, try speaking with others before the students arrive or after the students leave for the day. These conversations do not need to be long nor do they need to be on a daily basis, but speaking with colleagues a few times a month will help you form relationships. One of my former students was student teaching during Fall 2020 – the beginning of opening schools during COVID – and she was worried about not meeting anyone. She made a point to go into the school before the first day and spoke with as many teachers as possible. At the end of her student teaching experience, she was surprised by how many professional friendships she had formed and had teachers she could turn to for advice when she began her first full-time position in January.
Attend Planned Events:
While I am the first to admit that “planned work fun” can be a challenge to fit in and I do not always want to attend, I do acknowledge that these events are a good time to learn about and speak with the people I work with. It can be hard to synch yourself up to attend, especially when you are tired and would much rather watch Netflix, but make the effort and attend – even if it’s just for a little while. You never know who you will meet and what will come of your conversation.
Ask for Advice when Needed:
If you have a question about a student or their reading and writing work or a school policy that you are not sure about, ask for help or advice from a colleague. This is a good way to get another perspective and get some advice from others. Being able to ask shows that you are willing to get help when needed and it can also show that you are willing to listen to another or different perspective. This can help build a sense of trust between you and your colleague as well. It’s important to have someone you can turn to for advice or an opinion when needed. If you are concerned about asking for help – start small. Start by asking a low-stakes question – such as “what time of the day have you had the best student engagement for conducting interactive read-alouds?” – a question to break the ice and hopefully lead to further conversation.
Bottom Line – While it might be tempting, for many reasons, to stay holed up and working in your classroom, take the time to meet others in your building. It will pay off and help move your career forward!