Educator-to-Educator Relationships: Actions
Communicate | Collaborate | Support
School-based research shows that good communication has a positive impact on educator wellbeing.¹ Open, transparent, genuine, and consistent colleague communication supports feelings of connection and commitment to the school.
How does communication strengthen your relationship with other educators?
It shouldn't feel like the underground railroad when we're talking. We shouldn't have to hide by the water cooler in a back room to discuss our experiences, but this is what happens. I know my white coworkers and male coworkers can meet in the middle of the hallway, talk freely, miss class, talk at lunch, and get dinner together. For [people of color], if we're seen together, we're a “gang.”
—An educator of color, on how communication strengthens educator relationships
A note about code-switching:
In our study, educators of color spoke about needing to “code-switch” when communicating with colleagues. This means they felt pressure to switch from the communication patterns of their own culture to the dominant culture’s communication style to make relationships comfortable or easy for the majority. Code-switching comes at a cost to authenticity, and the emotional labor required takes up valuable time and energy. It’s difficult to form deep, authentic relationships when educators feel they need to code-switch to be accepted.
Communicate | Tips for Educators
Communicate openly about your feelings and needs.
Authentically listen. Pay attention to the body language, tone of voice, and emotions of your colleagues.
Exchange feedback regularly with other educators.
Step away from aggressive or hostile communication.
Communicate | Tips for Administrators and Leaders
Ensure your school culture provides a safe space for educators to speak freely
Model genuine and open communication at the leadership level.
Develop school-wide norms for communication (e.g., responding to emails, staff conflict resolution processes and policies, etc.).
Note: Cryptic, sporadic, or aggressive communication can leave educators feeling detached.
Working closely to create a new class or revise a curriculum requires elements of feedback, trust, and leadership support.² When done well, educator collaboration enhances relationships and benefits school culture and climate.³
How does collaboration strengthen your relationship with other educators?
I've been with my co-teacher for about six years. We get along really well, and so I've kind of learned her curriculum, and she's learned mine. So we cover for each other and help each other out and have a real positive relationship.
—An educator sharing a personal experience of collaboration
Note: Busy schedules, social hierarchies, and unclear goals can get in the way of effective collaboration.
Collaborate | Tips for Educators
When possible, work within and across teams instead of alone or in “silos” to receive support and build camaraderie.
Share effective teaching strategies with your team and peers through professional learning communities (PLC), friend groups, and during common planning time. The favor will likely be returned.
Introvert and neurodivergent educators can leverage online forums and resources to connect with peers virtually
Collaborate | Tips for Administrators and Leaders
Encourage educator-led initiatives.
Model collaboration at the leadership level
Support overlaps with the Framework element of trust. With trust, educators are more likely to offer and receive support. Support can strengthen the fabric of connection and foster good collaboration.⁴ It can improve teaching, help educators grow professionally, create initiatives, strengthen relationships, and bring ideas to life.
Forms of support can include mentoring, peer observations, constructive feedback, emotional support, and dedicating time or resources to a colleague.
How does providing support strengthen your relationship with other educators?
The thing that helps build relationships is listening—then acting on what I'm hearing. What follow-up and feedback am I giving? I’m digging deeper into our formative assessment process, and a big part of that is feedback, feedback, feedback. We have so many teachers who could be amazing leaders. It’s up to the admin to support those goals so we can lift these teachers up so they can grow.
— An administrator, on how support from leadership can positively impact other educator
Note: In the face of high expectations, overfilled schedules, lack of funding, and burnout, support is critical.
Support | Tips for Educators
Reach out to other educators for emotional support. A simple, “I see you,” can go a long way.
Check in on other educators. Keep each other accountable for self-care and mental health breaks. Express gratitude and don’t forget to take time to laugh.
Be open to providing and receiving constructive feedback from other educators.
Support | Tips for Administrators and Leaders
Provide support without micromanaging your educators
Facilitate mentoring, peer observations, feedback sessions, and other opportunities for support.