I remember as a 2nd grade teacher walking into the YMCA gym locker room and seeing one of my disengaged students scream out my name as I was smack-dab in the middle of putting on my bathing suit for a swim class. Her look of amazement to see me outside of the classroom led to many discussions that resulted in her becoming more engaged throughout the remainder of the year and actually for years to come. It also led me to changing my locker room status to adult only!
Another long-ago memory takes me back to my 6th grade teachers when Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Cortelyou would stand outside of the classroom and chat about their weekend as we settled down to begin the day. I remember stretching my ear to find out just a little bit more about my favorite teacher, Mrs. Smith and how she would play tennis on the weekends and spend time with her dogs. As I worked in her classroom for the rest of year, I felt more motivated and engaged knowing that she too loved dogs.
Fast forward to school nowadays….as a staff member and colleague, I often stand in the main office greeting staff as they arrive, asking about their weekend, checking gallery photos and giggling about the latest kitty cat instagram post.
Building relationships with others outside of the classroom and school not only makes for an enjoyable work experience, but allows each participant to share their passions, hobbies and guilty pleasures making connections that can impact more than just that moment. Team building, genuine conversations, sharing recipes and podcasts…all of these strengthen relationships both in and out of the workplace..and those relationships can have a direct impact on success in the classroom. Here are 7 reasons why:
It’s just interesting!
Learning about a colleague’s interest in pottery or falconry or kayaking or pickleball can be quite interesting. Maybe you have had an interest in one of these. Finding out that someone right in your department, team or building already has this hobby can motivate you to try something new yourself. And trying something new opens your heart to new and exciting adventures that create a positive outlook. Imagine how this new found interest in learning new things can affect your desire to try out new things in your classroom?
It improves c*o*l*l*a*b*o*r*a*t*i*o*n
Talking about topics outside of the workplace makes an easy transfer to collaborate on professional ideas. Many meetings and lessons begin with an opening ice breaker or focus activity. Starting out a team or staff meeting gets the conversational juices flowing to begin collaborating on topics directly related to student achievement.
It makes work a FUN place to be
How fun is it to find out that you and a colleague in your department or school have the same apricot poodle or Pembroke Corgi? Finding out that you share a common interest with a colleague helps with work engagement and desire to share your personal stories. What better way to engage at work, arrive a few minutes early and spend a lunch period with a coworker when you can’t wait to talk about a common interest?
It crosses all B-A-R-R-I-E-R-S
Building a relationship with someone doesn’t have to be a person who is just like you. Collaboration and team building crosses all barriers to communication…new teachers, experienced teachers, cultural differences, physical limitations and communication styles to name a few. Collaborating on topics outside of the regular work conversation can lead to more cohesive discussions about pedagogy.
It improves your mental health
Making connections with other people is the basis for social media. Collaborating, talking, digging deep into common interests…these all promote in-person social interaction at the workplace and less isolation in your individual room, office, workspace etc. Positive relationships help stimulate your mind, pique your interest, activate learning and can keep you mentally healthy. Relationships can thwart the “psychosocial hazards” that can result from social isolation and workplace stress. Building relationships with social contact can promote trustworthiness and motivation in the workplace.
It helps attract and retain staff
Most retirees miss the camaraderie of the day to day interactions at work. Building relationships help keep staff engaged with a strong desire to perform. It can increase the desire for others to work in your department, building and team. New ideas from newly hired staff coupled with sound educational best practices makes for the best recipe for student achievement.
When you are in a place where it “feels good” to be, you are in a state of mind to be your best. Collaborating with staff with whom you have a connection as a result of relationship building, leads to better productivity in helping your students achieve their goals
Stay tuned for ideas on how to continue to promote better staff relationships.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on this blog post and your own experiences with building relationships outside of the classroom! Comment below and share your favorite hobbies, interests, and stories with your colleagues. Let's continue to strengthen our bonds and create a positive work environment that ultimately leads to better student achievement. Don't forget to hit the share button and spread the word about the importance of building relationships in the workplace!
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