Educator-to-Educator Relationships: Connections
Connect professionally | Connect personally | Promote inclusion and reduce bias
Just as a forest creates a microclimate for its trees to thrive, educator relationships flourish in a web of professional connections. Feeling connected as colleagues can be difficult to observe or measure. It is a sense of belonging and mattering the minute one enters the school building.
What helps strengthen your sense of connection (relational “vibes”) with other educators?
It’s so important to have at least that one other person that you work with who you know you can count on. Before I made those relationships with people, I did not necessarily feel like I was a part of the community. But the more connections I’ve made, the better I feel about being where I am. The connections I have made have had a huge impact.
—An educator, on how connection influences morale
Note: A lack of connectedness among educators can look like isolation and detachment, born from feelings of not belonging or not mattering (Schlichte, Yssel, & Merbler, 2005; Sindberg, 2011). Brash, blunt, or overbearing personalities can create conditions for negativity to spread, affecting how connected everyone feels (Decker, & Rimm-Kaufman, 2008; Pennock & Moyers, 2012).
Professional Connections | Tips for Educators
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.
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.
Contact tracing - Reflect what exactly about someone’s personality triggers your response.
Inoculate - Set boundaries to avoid triggers.
Connecting as humans—getting to know colleagues on a personal level—helps educators feel seen beyond their role at school. Connecting personally encourages laughter, humor, and positivity, all of which energize and strengthen E2E relationships. Through these genuine and authentic relationships (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003; Hoy & Tarter, 2011), educators grow to appreciate one another and are more likely to support each other.
What helps you see other educators as dear friends, rather than just colleagues?
I try to get to know people as human beings to create a connection that’s deeper than just education. I think that some of my colleagues at work are my “in real life” friends. Those are the relationships that really make me happier.
—An educator, discussing the importance of personal connections
Personal Connections | Tips for Educators
Share your authentic self.
Organize opportunities to get to know colleagues as human beings (e.g., cookouts, after-school outings, book clubs, etc.).
Support other educators when they are going through a difficult time in life.
Personal Connections | Tips for Administrators and Leaders
Allow and protect time before meetings for educators to connect with one another.
Promote Inclusion and Reduce Bias
Educators thrive in school environments where their individual strengths and needs are acknowledged, and differences are seen as opportunities to understand each other. For example, schoolwide commitments to social justice (vs. one-off initiatives) protect against burnout, especially for educators from marginalized backgrounds (Santoro & Price, 2021).
Inclusion makes room for every educator at the table to have a voice, and helps everyone feel connected. Inclusive environments are important and necessary at all levels, from the classroom to district offices.
Inclusion and Bias Reduction | Tips for Educators
Intervene when you see other educators show overt (e.g. discriminatory statements) or covert (e.g. microaggressions) biases.
Respect and support mentorship and affinity spaces for educators from marginalized backgrounds.
Support school initiatives for antiracist education.
Learn about and acknowledge the institutional and structural biases that disproportionately affect educators from marginalized backgrounds.
How have other educators helped you feel truly included?
I put relationships at the forefront because I want you to know me way beyond a surface level. I know how I'm perceived [as a person of color], so I have to be intentional about making people comfortable all day long, in any facet, in any setting, especially at school. So yeah, my experience is much different.
—An educator of color, on prioritizing relationships to combat bias
Note: Overt and covert discrimination and bias undermines an inclusive relational culture (e.g., Brown, 2018; Frank et al., 2021) and has a damaging impact on educators’ wellbeing and relationships. When there is a lack of staff diversity or a hostile school environment (e.g., Kohli, 2016), educators from marginalized backgrounds feel excluded, either consciously or unconsciously. Biases that erode relationships can be based on any aspect of identity (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, spirituality, etc.).