In a job that is so complex and sometimes difficult, it is nice to have colleagues who make the days that little bit brighter.
We’ve all had to deal with difficult colleagues that make the job a bit harder, but I’m sure we all also have those wonderful colleagues who help us out!
Here are 9 fantastic teacher colleagues I’ve come across in my time, and why we love them so much:
1. The Voice
Famous Quotes: “Don’t worry, I’ll go talk to them about it.”
I’m not talking about the teachers who complain loudly about whatever they feel is unnecessary, or the ones who talk to everybody about everything. I’m talking about the teachers who stand up for the rest, the ones who are looking out for the well-being of all. These teachers are the bravest of us. They are not afraid to ‘stir the pot’ when they feel like something is unfair or not right. They will quite happily speak up in staff meetings against a new work regime, or go and talk to the senior leadership team on your behalf if you can’t/aren’t comfortable enough to do it on your own. Most often they are teachers who have been at the school so long they have either moved up the leadership ladder a bit, or have become part of the furniture. They aren’t worried about repercussions, because they are known for logical thinking and for being supportive of good ideas and good people.
If you are a beginning teacher or new to a school, it really helps to find out who these people are and to form a good relationship with them. You can learn so much from them about what battles to fight, how to fight them, and when something should just be let go. Their experience talking and negotiating with senior leadership is invaluable, and you know that if you have a genuine concern or issue they will help you solve it.
2. The Supplier
Famous Quotes: “Look guys, I made cupcakes!”
This is the person who (often unexpectedly) brings necessary supplies to the staff room. I don’t mean the person who brings stationary supplies, because let’s be honest here – teachers don’t like to share these. I’m talking about the wonderful soul who brings you a coffee from their favourite coffee shop in the morning, or makes you a cup of tea while making their own, or who likes to bake or buy snacks to share with everyone. It is particularly lovely when they do this during assessment and reporting times.
These wonderful creatures recognise that caffeine is often the life-blood of tired teachers. Picking up an extra one on their Gloria Jeans trip is second nature, and if you’re close enough they even know your order by heart and don’t bother asking if you want one, because they know the answer will always be yes. The bakers and snack bringers understand that food brings happiness, especially during the more stressful times of term. Make sure you show your appreciation by returning the favour!
3. The Pigeon Hole Checker
Famous Quotes: “Here, this was in your pigeon hole.”
This might seem like a small gesture, but the person who goes up each morning to bring back all the things in your pigeon hole can be an absolute life saver. They figure since they’re already going up to get their own paperwork, they may as well get yours too. If they’re kind enough, they grab everything for everyone in the staff room at the same time to save everyone the hassle. They’ll often even ask around first to make sure nobody needs anything dropped off to the pigeon holes or office before they head out, just to make sure no one is wasting a trip.
Depending how far away your pigeon hole is from your staff room, this person can save you a good 10 minutes of your morning, more if you happen to often get caught talking to people along the way. This small amount of extra time can sometimes make or break your entire day, allowing you that bit extra to get your thoughts, emails, and lessons in proper order before tackling your roll mark/form class. Try to ensure you make the trip on behalf of everyone else yourself at least some of the time, it’s only fair to return the favour and give the usual runner a morning free.
4. The Sharer
Famous Quotes: “I found this amazing resource, here you should use it too!”
Designing lessons is one of the most enjoyable aspects of our job, but sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to make it as good as you’d like. Or you know you want to change things up a bit, try something a bit different perhaps, but just don’t know where to start. This is where the Sharer comes in. They are the colleague who is always happy to give you activities, worksheets, videos, even entire lesson plans with associated resources. They have no selfish ideals about how they did the work so only they should use the outcomes (hello, your students are using it too…), or that it ‘isn’t good enough to share with other teachers’ (so why are you using it in the first place?). They are excited to share around the fantastic things they have found or made, and knowing they are saving you a bit of extra time is just an added bonus.
There is nothing more relieving then having another teacher share their resources with you. It can save you hours upon hours of planning time and bring to light great new ways to tackle the curriculum. Sure, you have to adjust and adapt to suit your particular class, but not having to start from scratch is a truly beautiful thing. Please always share great resources with other teachers, even if you resent them for not sharing back or because you think they are ‘lazy’. Remember, this job is about the students, not who is working ‘harder’.
5. The Teacher Colleague/Parent
Famous quote: “I don’t know if anyone has told you, but [insert insanely useful advice here]”
Every younger teacher has a more experienced teacher that they look up to. This person is sometimes their official mentor, but more likely it is someone in their department or staff room who they just click with. This is the person who is your teaching mum/dad/aunt/uncle, the person you can go to for advice, help, to have a cry, or to just chat. They have a deep understanding of your school and education system, and are always ready with advice and wisdom, and to lend a helping hand. You sometimes think that when you grow up, you want to be just like them.
We love our teaching parents because they make the job seem that bit easier, that bit more enjoyable. Knowing you have someone to go to with any issue is a very reassuring feeling, especially if you’re in a bit of a tough school or one that has seemingly impossible expectations of you. Chances are they might not even know you look up to them. Make sure you thank your teaching parents (perhaps with a bottle of wine or scotch) and that they know how much you really appreciate them.
6. The Optimist
Famous Quotes: “Don’t worry about it, it’ll be fine.”
It’s all too easy to fall into a negative slump at school. There are so many unhappy teachers who are quite happy to be vocal about their unhappiness, particularly when they are feeling very stressed. Sure, we all need to vent sometimes, but sometimes it just gets too much. This is where the optimist comes in, belaying fears and looking to the brighter side of teaching life. They will often have a few jokes up their sleeve, and a ‘well, it could be much worse, I actually really love teaching’ attitude. They are quick with a kind, supportive word, and love to share success stories.
Treasure these people, because they can stop you from sinking into a negative slump yourself. There’s nothing more dangerous or damaging to a school’s morale than a whole bunch of teachers who are severely unhappy with their situation for a prolonged period. The students pick up on it, and it forms a vicious cycle. Try to spend more time around these optimists, or even try being one yourself – you’d be surprised the difference it can make to you day!
7. The ‘Sure, Why Not’ Guy
Famous Quotes: “Sure, why not!”
This guy can sometimes be a bit annoying, but they’re always willing to give new things a go. Deputy has a new pedagogy to implement? Sure, why not! Someone needs a playground duty covered? Sure, why not! They don’t do these things to suck up to anyone, or win any favours, they’re just genuinely happy to help out where it’s needed if they have time. They don’t mind picking up the slack, looking over lesson or unit plans, helping out with an extra-curricular activity, or testing out a new IT system. The added bonus is if they are also great at giving useful feedback!
You need to be extra careful not to take advantage of this wonderful person, as they’ll often have a lot on their plate and you don’t want to overload them. They will probably never really complain, because they are actually happy to help out, so make sure you return the favour!
8. The Genuinely Helpful Deputy
Famous Quotes: “Ok, how can we solve this?”
Every now and then you come across a true gem of a deputy or principal. They are actually happy to listen to your concerns and work with you to find a practical solution. Sure, they may expect you to have thought of potential solutions before you go to them, but that’s only fair and it gives them an idea of the type of outcome you are ideally looking for. They do their best to accommodate requests from staff and are mindful of teacher workloads, keeping expectations realistic. You might not always agree with what the way they do things, but you know they are just trying to make it all work for everyone involved, and sometimes someone else’s priority is greater than yours. Even if that’s the case, this deputy still tries to make everyone happy enough.
Because they are genuinely interested in what you have to say, try and keep conversations and requests professional and realistic. Don’t go badgering them with every single little problem you have. If they see you working hard and being on their side, they are much more likely to lend a hand when you need it. Be sure to always thank them, even if the outcome isn’t your ideal, and remember that you are not the only teacher in the school – they might be working your issue around five others and trying to come to a good solution for all.
9. The Bad Cop
This is the teacher, deputy, or principal who isn’t afraid to be the bad cop with difficult students so that you can remain the good cop. You know the ones I’m talking about – they will pull a student out of your class to speak with them about their behaviour so that you can get on with your job of teaching the rest of the class. They will sometimes take students on detention for you, often because they know that student’s situation and how to work with them to get the best outcome. They’re also happy to take the ‘blame’ for rules that must be followed, and you might find yourself saying something like “Hey, these are the rules that Mrs Smith has set in place, and I have to follow them too”.
This colleague is worth their weight in gold because they can let you maintain a positive relationship with your difficult students even when they need a lot of discipline. They will always have your back and take your side, so make sure you don’t abuse the situation. Try to return the favour by being bad cop for another teacher sometimes.
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.