Tips for New Teachers: Collaborating

Looking for tips for new teachers? Look no further! I have an entire series devoted to new teachers. This post covers collaborating with other teachers.

My first year teaching, I taught a bunch of English 9 classes. Freshmen also filled my homeroom. In a weird way, I felt connected to that freshmen class, even as they progressed through high school.

My similarity to the fourteen-year-olds I taught clicked one day as I sat in the teacher’s lounge, wanting to collaborate, wanting to make friends.

I wasn’t quite comfortable where I was sitting, I was nervous, and I didn’t know what people were talking about. I thought back to my freshmen in the cafeteria, the freshmen I walked by to get to the teacher’s lounge.

We were both growing and experiencing new (and exciting) parts of our lives.

Collaborating is a part of education today. As a new teacher, what should you expect? Here are ideas for collaborating as a new teacher.

Eventually, I became comfortable eating and conversing with my coworkers, and new teachers, you will too. You’ll get organized. Every school presents unique situations, but if you are a new teacher, here are some tips for the personal side of coworkers, of navigating collaborating with other teachers.

1. Don’t gossip.

Every school has a dynamic, formed by its history and conflicts. you don’t know all of that – and you don’t need to know. The inner-workings of the administrators’ office? Not your first year. The squabble in the history department? Ignore it. Personal lives entangled, after hours? Again, leave it alone. You’re new, you don’t want a bad rep, you have more work than you’ll finish, and you’re above that.

Comparing can be an irresistible part of life, but refrain from researching what other teachers are doing – unless you are collaborating. Avoid conversations that will not benefit you. Be smart; give yourself time to know people.

And for goodness sake: don’t gossip about students!

2. Keep busy.

No problem, right? I’m not say to be unfriendly or never have fun. During school hours (especially prep!), work.

First, unless you are an anomaly, you will not have extra time. Your working hours will be full. You want your boss to see that you take the job seriously, and perform duties accordingly.

Second, this will help you avoid #1. Random coworker who wants to chat for twenty minutes over such-and-such parents? Keep working, walk to the copier, hang papers on a bulletin board.

Third, good teachers want other good teachers in their building. Don’t give anyone the illusion that you aren’t willing to pull your weight, to work for it.

3. Be yourself.

Am I your mom? Sorry! It’s true though. Part of what makes teaching wonderful is connecting with other educators and influencing students by being yourself. You will click with certain coworkers. If not that first year, eventually. You will have teacher-friends.

Furthermore, growing as an educator requires taking in a variety of ideas and experimenting with philosophies. You want coworkers to feel the same about your opinions and philosophies. For that to happen, you must be authentic. Sharing techniques and tricks, as your real self – not someone you think other teachers want to see – is a joy of teaching.

Above all, teachers are professionals. Teaching is unique because the majority of your day is spent with young people, not coworkers. It can be alienating and when you get outside that classroom, you may want to explode and take a well deserved break.

However, much like the freshmen I found a strange commonality with, you should be aware your first year teaching. You’re experiencing a huge life change. No one will hand you a diploma and certify you “experienced teacher,” but you will collaborate with teachers naturally.

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  • Tracy

    These are all great tips. If I could add one, it would be: make friends. When I first got into education I was so nervous about not knowing what I was doing that I avoided connecting with anyone. Now my co-workers are my lifeline. We’ve formed a close family and that really helps you through those rough days.

    I love your point about feeling connected to those first kids you taught. I had the same experience, having started as a substitute working primarily in 8th grade. I eventually became a teacher in the high school where most of those 8th graders ended up, and was there for their eventual graduation. Some of those kids still stay in touch with me, even though they’re now 20. It’s amazing that connection you make.

  • (author)

    Yes, agreed. Friends are important. I still speak with almost everyone from my first job as a teacher.

    Watching students grow over four years is a rewarding experience. I’ve encountered the same as you – I’m friends with most of them on Facebook and have watched them get married, have babies, and on. I really did have a special bond with that first group of kids.

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