I worked at a school once where the staff quite genuinely looked out for each other. This shouldn’t sound unusual but busy teachers are usually just looking out for themselves and getting through the day.
And yet that is the point. When teachers get swamped and snowed under then it is easy to lose perspective and forget that you are part of a team.
Here’s an example. I was working in Year 6 and I could see that quite a few of my colleagues were getting bogged down, stressed and snappy. That was quite normal actually but the term had been a long one and one or two folks were just about treading water. Looking out for each other in these situations is especially important because it doesn’t normally take much to tip someone over the edge.
One of my colleagues had had her fair share of ‘moments’ and she was running herself ragged. In a simple act of kindness I offered to do her break duty for the next two weeks and with no expectation of payback. Why? Well, on one break duty she had a lesson observation booked in straight afterwards and I thought she needed some time to get her head in order. The following break duty she had a ‘day from hell’ having to take assembly in the morning and a parents consultation after school.
Watching out for each other and sharing our loads helps us save our sanity and feel valued and respected by our colleagues. You might decide to ‘double up’ and take their class and yours e.g. a drama activity or assembly preparation. It could be that you just do someone a good turn and make them a drink or leave them a message of support on their desk.
No one likes to feel overwhelmed and many of us don’t like to admit to being overwhelmed either. Yet teaching is full of overwhelming moments that can drown us and suffocate us if we don’t get some help.
Cultivating solid relationships with the people you work with is crucial. We all need each other and a helping hand or a random act of kindness (or a planned act of kindness) can make all the difference. We all have private battles and things happening in our lives at different times that make work even tougher so having a close team is important.
When you see a colleague who is stressed, confused or swamped then you could just ask: Is there anything I can do to help?
Even if your proud teacher friend doesn’t actually take you up on your offer, just the fact that you have offered goes a long way in fostering a more empathetic culture.
If someone offers to take something off your plate, give them the knife and fork as well.