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25 Ways Teachers Can Connect More With Their Colleagues

by Staff Writers

A growing criticism of the American education system is that teachers spend too much of their time distanced from their colleagues (a recent survey found that teachers spend just 3% of their school day collaborating with other teachers), encouraging competition rather than collaboration, and making it difficult for teachers to work together to solve educational and institutional issues. Things don’t have to be that way, however, as there are many ways that teachers can reach out and connect with their colleagues and build a more collaborative atmosphere in their schools. We’ve come up with just a few here, but feel free to share your own experiences and ideas that can help other educators to connect and ultimately improve the quality of instruction they can offer students.

  1. Get on the same page.

    One of the biggest obstacles to connecting with other teachers is making sure that you’re all on the same page. Everyone should know what’s expected of them and be made a valued part of the team. From there, it’s much easier to build relationships and figure out the next steps to take to improve the quality of education kids receive.

  2. Teach and learn from each other.

    We all have unique skills and knowledge, so it can be worth it to share those things with others. If you’re a tech whiz, show other teachers how to start a blog or use Twitter. Took a cutting-edge new class? Share what you learned.

  3. Collaborate on lesson plans.

    Two minds are better than one, right? Working together on a lesson plan can be a great way to get to know your colleagues and to build better lessons for your students.

  4. Share what works.

    If you’re seeing amazing results from students in your classroom, there’s no reason not to share your techniques and lessons with other teachers. You can also draw on their experiences with what works for them, making your students’ experiences all the better in the process.

  5. Start a blog.

    Share your experiences and invite other teachers to share theirs through a collaborative blog. It’s a great way to talk when you don’t have time at work, and it can be shared with other teachers outside your school as well.

  6. Build your own social network.

    If you don’t have time to chat at school, why not create an online forum for teachers to chat? Sites like Ning allow you to build your own social network that you and your colleagues could use to talk, post questions, and share resources.

  7. Take on big projects.

    A project that’s too big to handle on your own is the perfect opportunity to pair with other teachers at your school. From painting a mural to starting after-school programs, you’ll get more done when you work as a team.

  8. Get feedback.

    It can be hard to hear a critique of your teaching or lessons, but ultimately it can be very helpful to you and other teachers to get some feedback. Some schools schedule observations or videotape teachers, but even informal feedback can be beneficial.

  9. Create a personal learning community.

    One of the most common ways that teachers these days are battling feeling isolated from their peers is by building a personal learning network or community. This can be composed of teachers at your school or from around the world. No matter who you choose to include, spend time sharing, talking, and collaborating on educational projects and ideas.

  10. Schedule weekly get-togethers.

    A problem for many teachers is that there simply isn’t time enough in the day for them to really work together. Solve that problem by setting up a weekly time to meet so that all teachers in a given grade or school can talk, brainstorm, and work together.

  11. Work together to solve problems.

    There’s no reason why you have to tackle a problem at your school or in your classroom all by yourself. Seek out other teachers for advice and for larger issues work together to find lasting, solid solutions. Nothing fosters unity like working through something together.

  12. Become a teacher-leader.

    Sometimes leadership happens by accident, but other times it’s something that you have to seek out. If you’re looking to take a more active role in connecting with teachers at your school, a good way to do so is by becoming a leader. Helping others, mentoring, and making a difference are all deeply satisfying and will undoubtedly help you feel more connected.

  13. Keep your door open.

    Closed doors don’t really foster an open feeling, so keep yours open when you’re working on lesson plans or even just eating lunch. It may encourage others to come to talk with you.

  14. Adopt a team mentality.

    Many schools don’t necessarily encourage teachers to really work together, instead sequestering each into their own classrooms. But that doesn’t mean that’s the way things have to be. You can start building a more team-focused feeling at your school by encouraging collaboration, talking to other teachers, and holding meetings. Remember, you’re all working together to give the students a great education and no one can do it alone.

  15. Make time for chatting.

    You may not hold idle chit-chat in high regard, but that small talk is a fundamental part of establishing relationships with your peers at work. If you’re busy throughout the day, try getting to school a few minutes early to make time to say hello to others you work with.

  16. Ask for help.

    One of the easiest ways to connect with your colleagues is to ask for their help. Getting advice on a problem student or lesson plan will not only help you, it will also foster stronger connections with other teachers in your school.

  17. Don’t skip the cafeteria.

    It can be tempting to skip the cafeteria and simply sit at your desk to eat lunch when you’ve got a busy day of teaching, planning, and grading. Yet mealtime is the ideal place to commiserate with your coworkers. Try to make it into the cafeteria or teacher’s lounge at least a few times a week for meals.

  18. Merge classrooms.

    If possible, try merging your classroom with another teacher for a certain lesson. It will offer the kids a chance to work with more than one teacher and you a chance to get to know your colleagues. Switching classrooms for classes can also be a great way to work together if you don’t have the room for merging.

  19. Try co-teaching.

    One teacher is good, but two is better! Use a free period to come help another teacher work with his or her class. Trade off so that you both get experience in the practice. You’ll have to work together on the curriculum and delivery, which will give you a chance to get to know your colleagues both personally and professionally.

  20. Take classes together.

    Improving your education is one way to become a better teacher, but it can also be a great way to build a rapport with your colleagues. Encourage others to sign up for classes, webinars, and conferences and attend together.

  21. Find a mentor.

    One of the best ways to build strong connections in your school is by finding a mentor, or if you’re an experienced teacher, a mentee. This way, teachers can share advice, provide guidance, and help make sure all teachers young and old feel at home in the school.

  22. Put the kibosh on negativity.

    Teaching can be a trying profession which can sometimes make it easy to fall into habits of negativity, but that attitude isn’t conducive to working together or making real changes. Instead of putting down other teachers, parents, and students, keep a positive attitude and focus on the good.

  23. Don’t wait for others to make the first move.

    If you wait around for others to seek you out, you may be waiting for a long time, especially if your school doesn’t really have a collaborative atmosphere. If you want to connect with colleagues, be willing to make the first move.

  24. Be open to new ideas.

    Often, we’re quick to shut others down when their ideas fall outside of our comfort zone, but keeping an open mind is essential to working as a team with your colleagues. Let everyone have their say and don’t be afraid to try new, innovative techniques.

  25. Reach out to the larger educational community

    Your colleagues can be more than just the teachers at your own school. If you want a wider view, reach out to those at other schools or in administration. It never hurts to know more people and to learn the methods they’re using in their schools.