Staff Relationships Building Community

As teachers, we all have very distinct personalities.  The way you interact with your coworkers at your campus has a lot to do with your success as a teacher.  When a new teacher enters a campus, you have a chance to building lasting friendships and professional relationships with those you work with. Today we will discuss how to be a successful extroverted teacher, and things to consider as you interact with coworkers, plus things to avoid.

There are many places online to find personality tests that will help you understand your own needs better.  I would suggest searching for the Meyer's Briggs Personality Test, to help you better understand where you stand in the spectrum.

As an extrovert, you draw your energy from being around, and interacting with people.  You are energized by those around you. If you find that you do better in solitude, and you need time away from people to feel refreshed, then you are likely an introvert.  It's important to note that, even though many extroverts are outgoing and sometimes loud, that's not always the case.  Being an extrovert or an introvert is about much more than just how outgoing or shy you are.

With that said, I am an outgoing extrovert.  I NEED people around me to get energy and to feel involved, and for me it is important to my success.  In conjunction with this, I am also a pretty big people-pleaser.  I care very much what others think of me, and I thrive on interacting with my coworkers.  So today, I am speaking from this perspective.  I'll be sharing some things that have helped me to bring strength to my relationships while functioning on a team, and focusing on your job as a teacher.

building relationships with other teachers new teacher

To begin, let's talk about three things you want to avoid as a new teacher who tends to be a talker and thrives on interaction.

If you are like me, you tend to be overly trusting of those around you.  As a new teacher on a new campus, you have to figure out whom you can trust and with what information.  You don't want to freely share your ideas on everything with coworkers until you have trust.  This includes sharing things that are super-personal and may be an overshare.

You will find that the people you teach with all come from different backgrounds and beliefs.  So what you view as normal and totally okay, may not be okay with them.  Avoid topics such as politics, social issues such as sexuality and abortion, and anything negative about other staff members or students and their families.  In time, you may find that you have people on your team that you can share these opinions with, but the teacher's lounge is not your friend on this.

The thing that is difficult about this is that you may hear other staff members do these things and so it seems completely acceptable.  Keep in mind, though, that the other staff members have already built a relationship with your new coworkers and that relationship has to be built before you can more freely share ... and some things such as bashing others and politics just truthfully shouldn't be in the workplace.  Avoiding that type of discussion makes you the better person.

As an extrovert, I know how much I LOVE to talk to my coworkers.  It is so easy to stick your head out the door during a transition or when someone walks by your room and asks a question.  This time can end up off-topic from its original intent, and before you know it, you've spent 5 minutes in the hall while your students, no matter how well behaved, have been without their instructor.

You have to be purposeful in your breaks and interactions with other adults ... and you will crave that adult time! The important thing is to make sure it isn't at the expense of your students.  The best way to keep your relationships intact and to avoid offending coworkers who may seek you out during class time is to simply ask, "Would you mind if I get back to you on that?" or, "Thanks for coming by and letting me know.  I will definitely follow up with you on that later."  It's okay to kindly excuse yourself and get back to your kids.  If you are the one seeking out the attention, find other ways to fill that need during lunch or your planning time.

For the super-social introvert, it is easy to be attached to your phone.  It offers so many awesome apps that you can use in your classroom, apps I wish had been available to me as a new teacher!  It also brings with it a huge distraction. Ya'll, the struggle is real!  I know what it's like to have my Facebook IM, text messages, Voxer, and email all blowing up at once while I have these 20 bright- eyed kids looking at me.  Don't let the phone win.  Your friends have jobs too (hopefully) and they will understand if you can't get back to them right at that moment.

Help train your friends and yourself by asking friends to avoid texting during school hours.  Not answering for long periods of time will also give them the hint.  If necessary, you can put your phone on silent.  I know for me, silent isn't always an option because I have parents text me to let me know if their child has a change in dismissal and other procedural things.  It is important to find a way that works for you to limit the outside distractions that come with interacting and socialization.

Staying off your phone is going to help you with your teammates, administrators, and overall perception of how seriously you take your job.  If your nose is always in your phone, you can't be as present with your peers.  This goes for staff meetings and team meetings too.  I'm not trying to preach at you, but give you the cold hard facts of it.  It is a real struggle even for me at times to step away from personal life ... but if you have a procedure in place you can conquer the beast too!

new teacher building relationships with peers

Okay, now that we have dealt with all of that, let's talk about what you SHOULD be doing!  You are at an advantage when you have an outgoing personality.  You can use it build those relationships you thrive on, and build lasting relationships with teammates, administrators, and support staff!

It is okay to talk to your peers.  If you want to connect to them, ask their opinions on things and learn from them.  This is one of the rare times in your career where it is okay not to have all the answers.  Your willingness to find the answers will speak volumes about your maturity and willingness to learn your job.  You don't want to be the leech that takes and takes and constantly asks questions, but you can get clarifications on things you don't know and seek advice from your peers.  Teachers who have been doing this for awhile are willing to share most of the time, and they can give you practical tips and tricks to help.

Also, smile and talk to your support staff; this includes the school secretary, custodians, and cafeteria workers, bus drivers, etc.  I would like to think it goes without being said that these individuals deserve respect.  They work long hours for low wages and many do it so willingly with a smile on their face, and they are there to make a difference just like you are.  When you treat them with respect and ask them how their day is going, you show your students that you value people who may be different than you, and you contribute to a positive school culture.  While we are at it, if you can ever help these individuals by cleaning up your classroom a little more or organizing your lunch numbers in a manageable way, do it!  Building those relationships will come back to impact you in ways you can't even imagine.  Believe me, when you have two kids puking in your room at once, you will be thankful that the custodian likes you!  If you need an extra copy of something or are low on staples, having that good relationship with the secretary will help, too!

Finally, talk to your administrators.  Don't be afraid to say "Hi!" and ask how their day is going.  It is so common for admin to only get questions and complaints.  When you see them in the hall speak,  and ask something about them.  Something short and concise so that if they need to go they can,  without making you feel like it was a stupid idea.  Just showing that you are willing to ask, and that you aren't always coming at them with a question, will make them happy.

This varies by school culture, but if you can, eat lunch with your peers or talk with them in the hall before school.  This will give you your "people fix" as you go into your classroom for extended hours with students.  Once again, be careful where the conversation goes, but make time for your peers to get to know you and for you to get to know them.  Eating lunch with them either in a teacher's room, in the lunch room, or the teachers' lounge will show you care and you want to be part of the team.

If lunch is a time you need to yourself, find another time that you can connect.  This may be through happy hour (watch your intake), other after school events, or by spending a few moments with them during planning.

Above everything be a listening ear.  When information is given to you, in staff meetings, in any situation, listen to what is said to you. Take time to process what is told to you, too.  As a new teacher, you will have many opportunities to listen and absorb what is being told to you.  Take those opportunities and enjoy them; take in everything you can!  The information you gain will help you to improve your craft, build your classroom management, and solidify relationships with your peers.

As you listen, don't be afraid to ask clarifying questions.  When someone gives you advice, it's okay to say, "Can you give me an example of that?" or, "How would you have handled the situation differently?"

You will grow so much this year in your relationships!  I have no doubt!  I encourage you (extrovert or introvert) to go and read Beth's post at Adventures of a Schoolmarm and learn more tips about building your relationships with colleagues and staff members.  You find Beth's post by clicking below.

Don't forget to come back and read our next installment of our series next week.  Look below to see our topic!

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