Soil: School Climate
Just like roots need healthy soil, educator relationships need a healthy school-wide relational culture. When schools cultivate intentional, inclusive, and equitable culture, healthy educator relationships can take root. Two major aspects go hand in hand with school climate: shared visions and social opportunities.
Also phrased as “core values” or “shared philosophy/purpose,” a shared vision aligns educators around reasons and/or goals for teaching or being at their particular school. A shared vision connects educators to an aspiration larger than any one person.
When shared vision is pervasive across the school, it often leads to retention and a more positive school culture and climate. Some educators noted grounding themselves in a shared vision (e.g., “we are doing this for the students”) to get themselves through conflicts or disconnect with other educators. A shared vision also facilitates educators’ readiness to be humble and collaborate.
How has working toward a shared vision, or not, affected your relationship with other educators?
We get a lot of emails from leadership that say, “we're a family,” and it's just not true. I’m disappointed that I don’t work in an environment that encourages opportunities to meaningfully connect with my colleagues and engage in things that inspire us to be in the classroom every day. I'm trying to figure out my role in changing that without being too outspoken. Because outspoken people tend to get targeted.
— An educator, discussing conflicting feelings around shared vision
Note: Lack of or a weak shared vision contributes to friction among educators. Factors that might lead to a weak shared vision include unclear communication, conflicting beliefs about teaching and students, and/or differences in personality.
Shared Vision | Tips for Educators
Personally understand your own core values as an educator and find places of common ground with other educators.
Unite around a common sense of purpose with other educators (e.g., sharing joy, supporting each other).
Co-create a shared vision for educator relationships in your school using common values.
Respect and value other educators’ values, even when they’re different from your own.
Get in touch with the reasons that bring you, and other educators, to school each day.
Educators have many formal opportunities build professional relationships when they talk about teaching during PLCs, faculty meetings, and mandatory orientation events. Educators also build relationships when they participate in extracurricular activities such as after-school clubs, coaching, and school-sponsored events.
Informal social opportunities serve as a bridge connecting educators' personal lives with their professional lives. These opportunities can be impromptu, from a spur-of-the-moment cup of coffee with a colleague, to something more elaborate.
What formal and informal social opportunities are in place for you to build relationships with other educators?
Be willing to go for a coffee or beer after work. Ask “How's your girlfriend?”, “How's your life?” A “What's going on?” can really help. We have a lot of staff who work out together. They go running together. They commit to book clubs, things like that.
—An educator, on how bonding outside of class builds camaraderie among educators
Social Opportunities | Tips for Educators
Host regularly scheduled social opportunities at a location that’s accessible and convenient.
Include all educators in social opportunities so that everyone feels welcomed and included.
Social Opportunities | Tips for Administrators and Leaders
Dedicate and protect time for educators to attend social opportunities that build relationships.
Incorporate relationship-building into PLC time so teams work more effectively and collaboratively.
Recognize and support educators when they take the initiative to arrange informal social events.