The teaching profession is an immensely social one. Interacting with students takes an immense amount of energy to create a welcoming and efficient classroom environment. So, teachers spend their days speaking or listening – just not with each other.
With 5 minute transitions in between class periods and 20-minute lunch breaks spent simultaneously eating and monitoring the cafeteria, there is virtually no time in the school day for teachers to speak freely with their colleagues or collaborate together. So, most teachers often spend their days as the only adults in their classrooms. They plan lessons alone, organize their classrooms alone, grade papers alone, etc. Pat Wasley, former CEO of Teaching Channel, said “Spending thousands of hours in my own classroom and the classrooms of many other teachers, I have come to believe that the most detrimental condition of a teacher’s work life is the isolation in which the majority of teachers work.”
Teacher isolation is a real problem. Some might say it’s a symptom of the professional schedules many teachers must follow, while others claim it results from unhealthy competition that school administrations encourage amongst teachers. An article in The Atlantic raises the possibility “that such policies [like merit pay] could undermine teachers’ collaborative work.” Everyone can agree, however, that when teachers work together, everyone – and most importantly, the students – win. So how can teachers fight off isolation?
Find or create a “watering hole” in the building. Is there a teacher’s lounge or shared kitchen space? Middle school teacher Hillary Greene talks about the teacher’s staff room in a Washington Post article: “In that cozy space, I practiced an important aspect of teaching: bonding with colleagues. Another teacher’s ‘Patrick’ sounded like ‘James’ in my class, so we talked and shared experiences. We all laughed together when a stressed teacher ran in to get a coffee and exclaimed, ‘I have to remember I’m not running the Pentagon!’” A shared physical place offers teachers a haven during planning periods or after school where they can vent, swap stories, share tips, and bond.
Stay digitally connected. Teachers have a lot of communication to manage. They must handle communication with many students, parents and guardians, administrators, and other teachers and colleagues. But, staying connected is a huge part of fending off isolation. And since most educators don’t have enough free time during the school day to debrief with their counterparts, connecting online is key. Go2s is an incredible resource for teachers to safely share information about individual students, exchange professional development material, collaborate on important projects, and more. Because Go2s is a private social network that has very detailed security settings, teachers can use the platform for professional purposes without worrying that their personal information will leak into their work life.
Teaching is difficult and can be utterly exhausting, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Your colleagues know what you are going through and are one of your most important resources. Taking the time to connect with them both in person and online is more than worth it.