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Before we get started, if you've been feeling overwhelmed with trying to improve your classroom management, you might want to check this out...
I've been there - I know how hard it can be to be the new teacher on staff at a new school. You can feel like you are starting from scratch, and it isn't always easy to make your way into existing cliques and grade level teams.
However, you are not alone. Let's talk about 8 ways you can trouble-shoot when you have this problem, starting right away:
Sometimes (often) it really has nothing to do with you.
Here’s what I would do and what I would say to a colleague who I’m struggling to get along with:
“Hey, I know that there has been a lot of tension between us, and I am so sorry for however I have contributed to that. I know how crazy busy your schedule is, but I wonder if we could find a way to get together sometime this weekend outside of school to talk about what’s been happening and how we can improve things moving forward. I truly want to be the best teacher I can be, and I apologize if the fact that I’m still learning has made this year more challenging for you. When and how can we get together? I’m happy to flex with whatever will work for you.”
It’s also really helpful if you get or develop a fantastic new resource or idea or teaching tool to share them with your team. Being generous goes a long way towards building trust and removing feelings of jealousy or feeling threatened.
Genuinely work to draw them closer and be sure to take an honest look at your own behavior to be sure that you aren’t contributing to the problem – and if you are, a genuine apology goes a long way towards starting to rebuild a relationship that might have gotten off to a rocky start.
If the problem continues, or if this becomes abusive and you feel like you are being bullied (or there is no genuine interest in improving the relationship), if you are a union member, the first step should be to reach out to your rep.
Get more information about your district’s workplace harassment and bullying policies, and ask about what kinds of resources and support are available to you.
If you feel comfortable with one of your school administrators, you can and should go to your administration to seek counsel. It isn’t healthy for you to live in this environment all year long. Also, start documenting everything that has already happened (as a timeline) and include this effort to reach out so you can show proof of a genuine effort to work things out with her if and when you have to go to your admin.
So, if it’s getting bad, DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. Please. Get the support you need from your district rep or from your administration.
In the end, remember that the only person you have control over is yourself, so what I find most helpful when I’m in these situations is to minimize my interactions with that teacher as much as possible, and focus all of my attention away from them and instead, onto being the best I can for my students.
There will always be people who don’t like you or the way you do things, and that’s okay. That’s their problem, not yours. What other people think of you is none of your business, right? Those aren’t your people. If you’ve taken an honest look at your own behavior and you’ve owned whatever part you’ve played in the situation, that’s all you can do. And, you might not have even done anything wrong.
So, let’s talk about ways to find YOUR tribe and to take the focus off of relationships that might not be going well and instead focus your energy and your love and your positivity on people who fill you up instead of on those who might bring you down.
Another way that you can make some genuine friendships and connections at your new school is to ask your principal how you can get involved, OR just go directly to another teacher and offer to help out with an already established club.There’s an amazing expression that I’ve come to live by – and in fact, was the inspiration behind starting this very podcast & blog. I truly believe that when you’re feeling helpless, if you’re feeling alone and not sure of your next step, the best thing you can do is to help someone else.
I can attest to the power of this from my own experience. Marjorie Andrews was an amazing teacher at our school. She was one of those very calm, very centered, and super loving people that kids and adults just gravitated towards. Her special gift or talent was in art, and I’ve always loved art. So, when I found out that she ran a craft club at our school, I decided that I just needed to get involved. I spent every Tuesday and Thursday during my lunch hour doing crafts with Marjorie and her craft club.
Talk about getting lessons in master teaching! Oh my gosh – I picked up some AMAZING tricks and tips – and because we were spending so much time together, other teachers started to accept me and interact with me more because I became part of conversations she was having with other teachers who came by while I was in her room.
Finally, when Marjorie retired, I took over the craft club and continued her legacy, and eventually became the art specialist at our school, even placing the annual order for art supplies for our school each year. Suddenly, I became the go-to expert and resource for other teachers in art – something I hadn’t expected. Amazing things can come out of just following an interest and offering to serve.
So, if you’re feeling a little lost and powerless and alone at your school, find a way to volunteer and to serve outside of your classroom because you just never know where it will lead.
That leads me to my next piece of advice to you. If you’re having a hard time fitting in and knowing how to connect to and make new friends at your school, think of ways to connect with and again, serve, outside of your school to give you access to a broader support network of teachers on a regular basis. Let me give you an example.When I was teaching in Alberta, our provincial teaching organization was called the Alberta Teacher’s Association (A.T.A.). Every year, the ATA would ask for volunteers from each school to serve on the Convention Committee for our annual regional teacher’s convention.
My last piece of advice to you is to get bold and to challenge you to start something new yourself.
Maybe you can start a club you run before school, during lunch break, or after school. I used to run a Pilates class before school a couple of days a week. Later, I started a homework club for older students to come and help my little ones with homework, and then we’d reward them by having some kind of a party like a hot chocolate party in the winter or an ice-cream party once the weather warmed.
Starting your own club, like Marjorie Andrews did with her art club, can draw help and support from other teachers, especially if you stop by their room and invite them to be part of it with you.
So there you have it! I hope you'll try out some of these ideas, and remember that you can always reach out to me for extra help and support inside our Private Beginning Teacher Talk Facebook Group.
I hope you have a wonderful week and remember - just because you are a beginning elementary teacher, there is no need for you to struggle like one!
Bye for now,
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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