As a newer teacher, you’ve likely spent the first few months of the school year building connections with the children you teach. But you’ve probably also realized that the important relationships you’re forming at school aren’t just between you and your students. Whether you co-teach on a regular basis or sit on the same grade or subject team as other educators, you have a host of colleagues who can be your allies and support network.
Here are some suggestions for navigating your new working relationships.
Be proactive. Anastasiia Popova, a second-year special education teacher at the Mott Hall School, a middle school in Harlem, says that most busy teachers are willing to take time to answer questions — but new teachers may have to be the ones to reach out.
“When you work at a school for a while, you already know everything,” she said. “Sometimes as a new teacher, I’ve missed something because nobody told me or they forgot to include me when they wrote an email.”
Try checking in periodically with colleagues in your grade or in your subject area. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about policies and procedures at your school.
“We’re living through an unprecedented time in education. We’re all still learning and shouldn’t be afraid of asking questions,” says Cheryl Gartsbeyn, a first-year English teacher at the Academy of American Studies in Long Island City, Queens.
Your expertise matters. It can be intimidating to find your footing among more senior colleagues. But your professional opinion is relevant, too.
“I feel comfortable making my voice heard as a new teacher because each person has something valuable to contribute in a discussion,” says Gartsbeyn.
You can learn a lot about what works in a classroom by asking and observing veteran teachers at your school. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try something a different way to see what works for you and your students.
Find time to plan with other teachers. If you co-teach with colleagues, it’s generally more effective to establish a consistent arrangement for planning lessons together, rather than relying on a model in which one teacher plans the lesson and the other makes modifications to it after the fact.
Popova, who juggles three different co-teaching relationships, acknowledges that planning and scheduling meetings with her co-teachers can be a challenge — particularly when teachers often continue to modify lessons after plans have been made. But establishing a relationship with your co-teacher and making the time to think through lessons together will mean you’re better prepared for the inevitable changes.
If you’re having trouble finding time to meet in person, technology may help you connect with your colleagues. Perhaps you can share lesson plans on a shared drive or record a demonstration of a lesson so you can watch it later.
“Planning lessons together helps us build a better relationship and trust each other pedagogically,” says Robert Canzoneri, an English teacher in an integrated co-teaching partnership at Richmond Hill HS in Queens.