Educator-to-Educator Relationships: Beliefs
What educators believe about one another is a critical component for the success of Educator to Educator Relationships. These actions can be organized into three categories: affirm value, respect, trust.
"It's my belief that you put the students first. I'm here to teach them, but it's their education. So I think that I totally dedicate myself to that. So when I feel like another teacher isn't, if they're just kind of coasting or they're making it about them rather than the students, that really is off-putting to me." —An educator, discussing how values influence relationships
- Have an open conversation and arrive at a shared understanding about what it means to be a good educator.
- Check other educators’ assumptions about students, especially students who are most underserved and/or from marginalized backgrounds.
- Draw boundaries (e.g., respectfully disagree, step away) when other educators’ values toward teaching and/or students fundamentally and morally conflict with yours.
- Create a system of acknowledgement for colleagues’ efforts, either at the educator-educator or educator-student level.
- Walk the talk– hold school leaders accountable for aligning school missions with policies (who are the missions serving and who’s being left out?).
Every educator holds values about their work.⁵ Relationships flow more easily when educators share similar values about working with students: taking a strengths-based approach or valuing certain traits are a few examples. Working with colleagues who affirm your values supports collaboration and connectedness. When other educators don’t affirm or share your values, it can be a barrier to building relationships. Educators shared how negative assumptions about students can create tension among colleagues. Educators with marginalized identities sometimes have to tolerate dominant values even when their own values are not supported in return, which can make relationship-building difficult.
“When you see someone and hear somebody doing work that you're philosophically in line with, or like, "Oh my God, why didn't I think of that?" Or, "That's brilliant," and you end up admiring them for it, it makes you excited to see what another day could hold, or see where your department can go. It gets you enthusiastic about the next day.” —An educator, on how demonstrating respect and admiration can strengthen relationships
Professionalism: each educator “holds up their end of the deal”
Genuinely show admiration when you see another educator doing something that you can learn from.
Democratize the space: every educator feels like they have a say and contributes to a shared school vision.
Set up a routine to honor educators’ efforts and contributions (e.g., celebrate teaching anniversaries)
With mutual respect, educators see each other as role models, collaborators, mentors, and friends. Feeling valued and respected encourages educators to do their best at work and invest in their careers through professional development or continuing education. On the other hand, educator-to-educator relationships are compromised when educators do not respect their colleagues (e.g., doubting someone’s competence or not meeting basic professional standards). While there is an abundance of literature on respect being a core aspect of educator-student relationships,⁶ fewer studies have examined educator-educator relationships in terms of respect.
“So I think having the ability to talk and share what you want to share without feeling that there'll be repercussions is really important. And generally just being able to be listened to, I think that's the big one.” —An educator, discussing the importance of trust
- Show colleagues grace and understanding on their difficult days, acknowledging common humanity.
- Be a listening ear while keeping sensitive information in confidence.
- Demonstrate and offer your own vulnerability in balance with professionalism.
- Routinely engaging in low-risk, relationship-building interactions (e.g., exchanging stories of classroom successes); these interactions are often a prerequisite developing trust.
- Have faith in your coworkers and assume positive intentions.
- Refrain from speaking about colleagues negatively.
- Take any staff conflicts through the appropriate channels, instead of going “behind each other’s backs.”
- Acknowledge existing conflicts and prioritize relationships.
- Be reliable: Tell your colleagues what you are going to do, then do it.
Trust is integral to educator relationships.⁷ The more educators trust one another, the more positive the school climate tends to be.⁸ Trust grows when educators can be vulnerable without fear of repercussions, and when they know they can count on each other. When there are power dynamics or unreasonable expectations, trust can be difficult to build. Trust is eroded by gossip about other educators and going behind each other’s backs. Trust is also eroded when educators feel surprised when they’ve been betrayed by a colleague.⁹