I’m sitting in my empty classroom tonight, well past 9 p.m., and the Jamaican cleaning lady is happily chatting to me as she is cleaning up. She stops mid-sentence in alarm and states, “I talk too much.” “No,” I reassured her, “talking is good. It’s nice to get to know you.” She continues her spirited monologue in a musical accent, and I am left to ponder the statement I hear so often, “Education is the loneliest profession.” I even heard one of our state’s educational leaders include this quote in his speech given at an educational conference during the summer of 2011. I wonder– where is the evidence of this?? Loneliness is pretty much the opposite description of my teaching career, especially in the 21st century.
Collaboration and communication are important elements of 21st century learning skills, and teachers as lifelong-learners have embraced the necessity to have meaningful dialogue with our peers to impact and inspire our students’ learning. For the past decade, I have had the pleasure of working with my grade-level teams to create purposeful, rigorous lessons. We have always made
this an essential element of our success as a team. Teams also meet to discuss data, determine trends, and develop interventions to further our students’ knowledge. We spend long hours reflecting on our best teaching practices and our knowledge of the students, analyzing lessons and redesigning them for future implementation. Throughout the years book studies have been popular amongst the teachers in my schools, and we have voluntarily met to discuss some great books, “Mosaic of Thought,” “Conferring: The Keystone of Reader’s Workshop,” and “The Courage to Teach.” I was encouraged by the rich dialogue amongst my peers as we discussed the new teaching strategies and concepts. I know I am not alone with my experiences with team-planning and voluntary professional development. Teachers crave other teachers’ feedback and wisdom.
Technology is another key factor that keeps a teacher from being lonely! My favorite technological form of communication with other teachers is Pinterest. I am inspired by the “pins” other educators have contributed to this innovative sharing community (www.pinterest.com). I have copied insightful anchor charts from talented language arts teachers, created new organizational strategies to keep my classroom structured, and experimented with hands-on math activities through the colorful photographs and written descriptions provided by fellow teachers. Also, educational blogs have become viral!! After returning to the first grade classroom, I enjoy reading fellow first grade teachers’ inspirational stories and ideas for quality teaching. Technology has bound teachers together throughout the world. There is no limit for relationships with other teachers now! We can Facebook, Tweet, or Pin each other, not to mention just call for a long chat about our students and lessons.
Although administrators have a lot on their plates throughout the current turbulent educational setting of rigorous Common Core standards and high-stakes standardized assessments, they can easily help dissolve loneliness in a school community. I have been blessed with superintendents and principals who are comfortable with walking around the school buildings, asking teachers for input on current school issues. Administrators are usually seeking teachers to serve as mentors to help assist newer teachers. Team-teaching opportunities are provided for peers who are willing to take on a new challenge in their teaching expertise. Finally, instructional coaches are implemented in many school districts as the bridge between the administration team and the teachers. They are valuable to teachers as they provide insightful feedback about teaching and facilitate professional development classes. As I am constantly in communication while collaborating with my district and school administration, I don’t feel lonely in the least bit!!
I hope that I am not alone in my belief that teachers are far from lonely. I love my interaction with my teaching friends and colleagues, located throughout my school, district, state, and nation. We are not alone!!