Educator-to-Educator Relationships: Connections
How educators connect with one another is a critical component for the success of Educator to Educator Relationships. These actions can be organized into three categories: connect professionally, connect personally, promote Inclusion and reduce bias.
“I feel like it is so important to have at least that one other person that you work with who you know you can count on. And I feel like, before I was established in the school that I’m in and before I had made those relationships with people, I did not necessarily feel like I was a part of the community so I didn’t really feel connected, but then, the more connections you’re able to make, I feel like the better I have felt about being where I am. And we’ve had a lot of people come and go over the years, but the folks who have been there and the connections that we have made between each other, they have had a huge impact.” —An educator, on how connection influences morale
- Normalize acts of kindness between educators (e.g., birthday committee).
- Recognitions can go a long way. Build in traditions to celebrate educators’ victories and help each other through losses.
- Know you are part of something great (i.e., the teaching profession); you aren't alone in your work and your experiences.
- Make other educators feel heard, seen, and understood in and outside of the classroom.
- Actively welcome new educators by introducing them to other educators.
Fight against negative contagion– ‘wear a mask’ (manage/control your anger when someone’s personality really triggers you), ‘social distance’ (remove yourself from the drama, get out from the teachers lounge), ‘contact tracing’ (reflect what exactly about someone’s personality triggers your response), and ‘inoculate’ (setting boundaries to avoid triggers).
Educator relationships can flourish through professional connections. These professional connections are a sense of belonging from the moment you enter the school building. Feeling connected helps educators build deeper, more trusting relationships with each other.¹⁰ A lack of professional connectedness results in isolation and detachment.¹¹ Overbearing personalities can create conditions for negativity to spread, affecting how connected everyone feels.¹²
“It's sort of how I model my teaching, I try to get to know them as human beings. And I think that, that it sort of creates a connection that is deeper than just education. You can small talk sort of with anyone, but there's a genuine caring for folks. And I think that some of my colleagues at work are my actual friends in real life and so I think that definitely helps build connections, and then also the relationships that really make me happier.”—An educator, discussing the importance of personal connections
- Make a list of traits that make you “you”: what is your favorite color? What are your hobbies? What puts a smile on your face today? Share your authentic self to connect with other educators.
- Ask other educators a question about themselves to learn more about who they are outside of work.
- Organize opportunities to get to know colleagues as human beings (e.g., cookouts, after-school outings, book clubs, etc.)
- Celebrate personal milestones
- Allow and protect time before meetings for educators to connect with one another, use icebreaker questions and activities if necessary
- Support other educators when they are going through a difficult time in life
Connecting personally helps educators feel seen beyond their role at school. This is a critical foundation for educator relationships. Educators interested in connecting personally show a sincere interest in learning more about each other outside of the classroom. Connecting personally encourages laughter, humor, and positivity—all of which are energizing to professional relationships. Through these genuine and authentic connections,¹³ educators grow to appreciate one another and are more likely to support each other. In the words of an educator in our study, “we’re human beings, not robots.”
"That's why I put relationships at the forefront because I want you to know me way beyond a surface level because I'm already known how I'm being perceived. I'm already known how I'm being perceived before I even open up my mouth. So I have to be intentional with making people comfortable all day long, in any facet, in any setting, especially at school. So yeah, my experience is much different." —An educator, on combating bias and prioritizing relationships
- Promote Inclusion and Reduce Bias
- Acknowledge your and other educator’s unique strengths and needs.
- Learn about your own and other educators’ identities beyond colleagues.
- Intervene when you see other educators show either overt (e.g., discriminatory statements) or covert (e.g., microaggressions) biases.
- Respect and support mentorship and affinity spaces for educators from marginalized backgrounds.Unapologetically support school initiatives for antiracist education.
- Learn about and acknowledge the institutional and structural biases (example) that disproportionately affect educators of color and other educators from marginalized backgrounds.
- Understand that what makes an educator different can also be a strength (e.g., an educator with a disability advocates for accessible workplace for all)
Educators thrive in environments where differences are seen as opportunities for understanding. For example, an ongoing school-wide commitment to social justice can protect against burnout, especially for educators from marginalized backgrounds.¹⁴ Inclusion helps every educator feel that their voice matters, and it’s important at all levels, from classrooms to district offices. Discrimination and bias—whether overt or covert—can damage both relationships and an inclusive relational climate.¹⁵ When there is a lack of staff diversity, discrimination, or bias, educators from marginalized backgrounds can feel excluded, either consciously or unconsciously.¹⁶