For the past couple of weeks I have been blogging about the power of relationships in education. This post will focus on the relationships that we forge with our colleagues. I believe that the relationships that exist amongst colleagues have a tremendous impact on the functioning of the school as a whole. The presence of trusting, collaborative and caring relationships amongst the adults in the building, will have a ripple effect that will touch all aspects of life within the school community.
While the relationships of the adults in a highly functioning school community is critical, it seems that it is often something that can be largely ignored, or at least not discussed publicly. Who wants to admit that we might prefer to live in isolation, or that we're having a hard time getting along or even that there is blatant conflict? We can either be too polite to discuss it, or may fear confronting it. The reality is, unless we do, our learning communities can't be all that they could be.
How do we begin to focus on building relationships with our colleagues? It isn't unlike the previous posts. When it comes to building relationships and promoting collegiality, the starting points are pretty similar:
- Be present and listen. We are all busy, we all have a laundry list of both professional and personal responsibilities, but this is important work, and worth our time. We need to take the time for frequent and informal interaction, giving our colleagues our undivided attention. Developing and cultivating collegial relationships will lead us to greater overall satisfaction, as we reduce stress and increase enthusiasm for the work that we share.
- Mutual respect. We need to respect the diverse roles that we play in our learning communities. Before we can do that though, we need to understand the nuances of one another's roles. This happens when we remove isolation, encourage open door policies and engage in dialogue with one another about our educational practices.
- Open communication. Good relationships are dependent on it. But in my experience, you have to invest heavily in the first two elements above to get to it. We communicate all day long, in a variety of modes and formats, but open communication is much more than that. Open communication occurs when individuals are able to express ideas, and engage in meaningful and even tough conversations, and feel that they have been heard. The benefit of open communication is less gossip, and "out in the parking-lot" conversations, and greater transparency, problem solving and conflict resolution.
- Be positive. A positive attitude is contagious. People enjoy being around positive people. Look for the good around you, and appreciate the good in others. This doesn't mean that we skirt disagreements, but we can disagree in an agreeable way. It is possible to be honest with one another without engaging in negativity, and we can do this by presuming positive intentions.
When we grow in positive relationship with our colleagues its impacts are felt throughout the school community. Please share your tips for improving collegial relationships in the comments below. This is something that affects us all, and can benefit us all.