I correspond regularly with a young teacher via our respective blogs. I don’t recall exactly how we found each other. I think she “liked” something I wrote, or vice versa. Which was followed by her commenting on my blog, and, vice versa.
In any event, I enjoy reading her blog, and following the events of her life. Recently, she posted about getting into a routine, making progress with her students, and her struggles working as a part of a team. She commented specifically on the degree of progress her team members seem to be making in their classes in these early first days and weeks of the new school year, and all of the good ideas they seem to have, and, how to negotiate this with doing her own thing.
I have several thoughts on the topic:
- A very wise Spanish teacher, someone I consider a mentor and a friend, told me the following about ten years ago, when I was struggling in my practice: Each teacher has to sing according to his or her own song.
- I often wonder how some of my foreign language colleagues come up with such good ideas. I mean, do they eat, sleep and spend time with their families??? I am creative in many ways. However, when it comes to creating fun, engaging activities for my classes, I am often dipping from a dry well. Therefore, Thank God, and God Bless, those foreign language teacher colleagues who are creative in ways that I am not. At the same time, perhaps I am being too hard on myself. Perhaps I need to learn to manage my time better. Perhaps I need to learn to control my anxiety and depression more effectively. Perhaps I need to work out more regularly, eat better, go to bed earlier. Perhaps if I were to do all of the aforementioned better, I could be more creative when it comes to lesson planning. I don’t know.
- I understand the young teacher’s struggles with respect to being a part of a team. I really do. Being a team player isn’t one of my other major strengths. For the simple fact of the matter that early on in my teaching career, i.e. the first five years – which are the formative and the most critical years of teaching, and, of any career, really – I had no mentor, no real training, no support, nobody who took a real and true interest in me. So, I forged my own path. Which is truly the proverbial double-edged sword. On the one hand, people want you to be independent, to not bother them, to figure things out for yourself. On the other, after saying all of the aforementioned, they want you to be a part of their team. A team which is often dysfunctional. So, the benefit of being independent has helped me to be the person I am in my professional and personal lives. The deficit of being an independent person in my professional and personal lives is that I find it difficult to reach out for help, and to be open to the ideas of others. Which, in large part, has prevented me from advancing in my career to leadership positions. I recognize this now. And, for the most part, I am okay with this.
My recommendation to this young teacher? Given the fact that she is, in fact, much younger than I am, and, that she has her entire teaching career in front of her, I recommend that she find ways to work with her team in ways that make the most sense to her, bearing in mind that there will be compromises on her side, and, there will be compromises on their (colleagues’ side. She can still be an effective team member, while doing what resonates and feels right to her. Me, on the other hand? Well, I’m still learning. Perhaps there is hope for me yet.