Making friends can be hard at any age. I know as a teacher I am always trying to encourage my students to get out there and build friendships. I think it is just as important for teachers to make meaningful and supportive connections for growth and happiness. I realize you might be thinking- saying this is easy…my students say that too, but in reality it may seem difficult or frustrating. I know how isolating and difficult it can be being an itinerant teacher. I am very fortunate to have a small group of TODs I can rely on. There are only seven of us in total, but I rely on my tribe. I realize not everyone has this professional luxury-I never take my tribe for granted.
Even with the support of my local TOD tribe I found myself needing to make more connections. I realized that I needed more support to do work I could be proud of. My number one focus is always my students. That’s why we do it…right? We drive in uncomfortable weather, we eat in our cars, we add on the miles, we are a constant guest in buildings and we are forever explaining what we do- and “No I am not a speech therapist!”
We do it for our students.
Well, this year I decided I needed to step outside my comfort zone and look for more support, so I can keep on going….for my students. Teacher burn out happens easily. I do not think the cranky, frustrated teacher you might eat lunch with or pass in the hall ever wanted to be that way. If you read my blog regularly you will know that I try to grow professionally and personally. I never want to be “that teacher”. The one that should have stopped teaching because they lost the spark or passion to do more than an adequate job. So, I thought I would share some of the things I have recently done to expand my tribe and grow.
I was very slow to get on the Facebook train. VERY. I couldn’t see the need for it, the time for it or the purpose of it as an educator. I understand why people love Facebook for their personal lives. I first started there….I got an account to connect to my child’s school activities. I found value in being able to be connected or in the loop. I never really post, but I can stay informed and I like that.
I think as a teacher so many of us are not on Facebook because of the negative things you hear or a level of fear, related to it effecting your career. You might not care what someone had for breakfast or their current mood. I get it. Maybe you have had it forever and love it, maybe you are a newbie like me or maybe you still don’t have an account- wherever you fall on that list that is ok.
A teacher friend of mine suggested I use Facebook to find other teachers of the deaf for support. I know I squished up my face and sort of thought she was nuts….maybe I am really behind the times, but I had no idea there were groups!!!! There are all sorts of teacher groups out there-search and see what works for you. I have joined a few and I think it is awesome how many teachers of the deaf are out there talking about real things that are part of my everyday world. These are the things I want to know about. How someone is teaching advocacy skills or using community resources to help their families.
I am still shy to put myself out there, but I find that reading the questions people have, the strategies they are using and the problems they encounter are similar to my experiences and that helps me stay fresh. Also, if I am feeling brave I can respond or even pose a question and get feedback. Makes me feel like my tribe has exploded and is sort of limitless.
I personally love Instagram as a platform to see and learn about all sorts of things in the world. When scrolling past something I like-I love tapping the little heart! I find this outlet to be quick, visual and typically positive. I like that I can follow other teachers and SEE what they are doing. If I feel like engaging more I can always follow links or watch people’s stories. I have been inspired by many posts, from all sorts of teachers. Lots if sparks!!!
There is an itinerant teacher I follow who saw a post of mine and she had questions-sent me a message. I love it! I could help her out and it came from a simple picture I posted, about something I do, that is a common thing for me. Simple, helpful and not a huge level of commitment.
My tribe is happily growing!!!
Face to Face
This seems super obvious right…make friends in school, but I sort of think this one can be hard for an itinerant teacher. Facebook or Instagram are at my fingertips 24/7, but time to connect with people in my buildings can be a challenge at times. As I am getting older and further in my career I feel as if I know myself better and I know I need to connect with the teachers in my buildings. I can’t always rush in and rush out. I know so many of us have demanding schedules, but try to make time for one teacher you think you can build a friendship with. I have been very blessed that there are some really great people I can connect, share (maybe over share!), chat…and be myself with.
Things to consider:
- Slow down and say hello
- Participate in teacher activities like- holiday parties, monthly breakfasts, special luncheons and dress down days/fundraisers
- Eat in a staff lunchroom
- Use the library- people are always in and out
- Volunteer for a school event
- Attend a school event
- Say yes to a happy hour
I have done all of these over the years. Some years I can maybe manage one, but at least I tried. I have found that making the effort pays off personally and professionally. I have been in multiple districts over my career and some of the friendships I have made were temporary, because being itinerant is difficult and some friendships are still going!
These are the people that get me through a freezing, gross, stressful day. Whether I physically see them or get a text reminding me to drive safe these small moments can get me through. Making these connections and growing these friendships has made me a better teacher. I can’t function all day without adult interaction. I think I could in my twenties when I was just starting out, but I could also wear high heels all day too! I now need comfort in friends and footwear.
Being itinerant can be mentally and physically draining. You do not have to be an island or a one person teaching machine. It is so okay to say you need more:
My hope with this post is no matter where you are or what your schedule/job looks like, you can think about these suggestions and expand your tribe, improve your everyday and be a happier you.
I would love to hear from you. You can email me, comment, or like this post. I would love to know how you keep yourself connected and positive.