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Building Professional Relationships

August 19, 2011

We know that building relationships with students and families has a direct connection to student growth and achievement. As soon as possible, master teachers build relationships with their students and their students’ families. But there are essential relationships we need to build and cultivate before children and their parents enter our buildings. Roland Barth believes, “The nature of relationships among the adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else.” (Educational Leadership, 63 (6) 13.)

As you reenter your school buildings and classrooms consider the importance of relationships and collaboration with colleagues for a successful new school year. We are more successful when we work together as a school community to support and meet the needs of diverse learners in our school populations. There are days when I need support, whether it is a morning smile or some well-needed advice. I often encourage my student teachers to make friends with everyone, especially the school secretary and the custodian. I define small gifts of chocolate as an essential tool for all educators.  I don’t have all the answers,  instructional strategies, or experience that my colleagues possess. I need all kinds of help. By being an active member of my school team, I can easily give and receive much-needed help and support. Working together we are a stronger and more powerful force.

I have been reminded of this several times this week by colleagues and friends. As I prepared to write this post I reflected on the joys and challenges, good news and bad news of this past week. Then I recognized the gestures directed my way that helped in the long run to make it a rewarding and fulfilling week. If these gestures were a source of support for me, then surely they are ways to build and cultivate professional relationships in any school setting.

Five Ways to Build and Cultivate Professional Relationships
OR Five Gestures That Made My Week!

  1. Recognize the efforts and gifts of your colleagues. After mentoring a new faculty member navigate a new class, I found three chocolate mints on my desk with a short note, “Thank you for the help. You like chocolate don’t you?” Yes, I do! Leave short notes and small gifts in a colleague’s mailbox or on their desk. Recognize the gifts they bring and share.
  2. Show concern for others. It has been a very busy couple of weeks for me. A friend and colleague sent a text message one morning, “How are you really coping with these long days? Take care of yourself.” I  love the ease and timeliness of technology, and this was just the start I needed to begin a new day.
  3. Celebrate and share success and accomplishments. A former student sent an email sharing that she had her first teaching position.  Great news deserves sharing and celebration. Spread the joy.
  4. Share resources and insights. Out of the blue came an email from a friend and former colleague, “Thanks for recommending the book, mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. As I was reading, I kept thinking that our job is to attempt to figure out every individual puzzle that enters our classroom.  This book should be an eye opener to every teacher.  I have already recommended the book to a few colleagues.” Pass it on.
  5. Share skills and expertise.  After spending an afternoon of hands-on exploration of  the interactive white board with a new teacher I received, “Thank you for sharing your time and skills.” Spend a few minutes helping new or reluctant faculty with software, interactive white boards, or other digital tools in your building. We all learned from someone. Pay it forward.

During my quiet reflection of this past week, I was able to truly appreciate my blessings. I had received several other expressions of thanks, care and concern, more chocolate and even an offer of a hug at a particularly difficult moment of the week. My professional family and school community nurtures me, supports me, believes in me and continually challenges me to grow. If you are a part of professional community like this make sure you are an active participant, both giving and graciously receiving. If you are not, become an agent of change.

Make it a good week.

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