Cultivating, building, and sustaining relationships is not guaranteed in all learning environments; however, just as we help students develop cooperative and communication skills, we can adopt and hone collaborative practices that will enhance our personal and professional lives and those of our colleagues. Here are some simple but inclusive strategies for establishing relationships around campus:
Collegial Classified Ads Board. Use a centrally located bulletin board with sticky notes and pens or an online shared document and set up categories for staff to exchange resources, supports, and materials for both personal and professional use. Categories may include Class Resources Needed, Freebies & Giveaways, Pets & People, Discounts & Coupons, Health & Fitness, or Weekend Events. Categories can change based on the needs of the staff.
Progressive Staff Meetings. Develop a rotation for weekly or bi-monthly faculty meetings so each teacher's room is used at least once during the school year. The host teacher can start the meeting with a brief introduction of his or her background, classroom, and personal interests to establish connections with others on staff. After the host's opening, the meeting agenda proceeds as usual.
Mentor Match-Ups. Unlike formal coaching partners, which typically are assigned, mentoring match-ups are short-term, with targeted purposes that can help bridge talents and skills between multigenerational colleagues. Faculty members share skills, talents, or resources with peers. For example, a millennial teacher could offer to help set up a Google Classroom while a veteran baby boomer may demonstrate strategies for facilitating an effective student-led or parent-teacher conference. A master list or shared document is posted with all options, and once a month, teachers are encouraged to seek out the expertise of a peer during the normal staff meeting.
Quarterly Unmeetings. Based on the concept of open space technology or unconferences, a leader can establish the last staff meeting of the month as an "unmeeting" where topics of interest are generated by the faculty and conversations evolve organically. Teachers who typically sit with their department or team have the opportunity to chat with other like-minded colleagues who share ideas, challenges, or passions.
Teaching is hard enough, and educators often feel alone with their ever-mounting roles and responsibilities. Why not, then, build community and offer peer support by providing options for relationship development and collegial collaboration?
Sandy Cameli, a longtime middle grades educator, serves on the Hawai'i Association of Middle Schools (HAMS) State Board. She is an education consultant and author of Watching Students GLO
, available from AMLE.
Published in AMLE Magazine
, February 2016.