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Relationships Aren’t Just for Kids

Relationships Aren’t Just for Kids

Relationships. We’ve heard that word a lot lately. “It’s all about relationships”. “You have to build relationships with your students”. “Relationships are key”. I agree with all of those sentiments. However, the best relationship you can have is a healthy relationship with yourself. Give yourself permission to take a break this summer. Give yourself permission to step away from the job if that’s what you need. Find something that helps you revitalize and helps you remember why you are a teacher in the first place. Find something that helps you become your best self. Start a new hobby, or find time for an old hobby you haven’t been able to do. Meditate. Dance. Before you know it, we will begin a new school year in which you will once again be asked to fill a child’s cup. You can’t fill someone else’s cup if yours is empty.

Besides building a relationship with ourselves, many of us have forgotten the value of cultivating positive relationships with our peers. Now is the time to build back those relationships. Set up a Zoom call. If you just can’t Zoom anymore, I suggest the Houseparty app. Or you can  create something on Flipgrid so everyone can respond at their own pace. Relationships take effort; however, the rewards are tremendous.

Unfortunately, because of Covid restrictions, many of us have lost the vital relationships we have had with our colleagues.

Some of us are still unable to teach face to face in our buildings. But even though we may be face to face, often we are only interacting with our students throughout the day. Some of us are spending entire days without having a meaningful conversation with another adult. We don’t get to eat lunch or have recess duty with our friends. Not only do I miss my friends, but I miss the collaborations that came about because I spent time with my friends. Some of my best teaching units came from conversations with colleagues that took place over lunch. Over lunch I have planned field trips, reading parties, and multi-grade level collaborations.

I have a confession to make, and I’m going to be brutally honest. The past 12 months of teaching have been the hardest of my 25 year career. In fact, there have been times this year when I have seriously considered walking away from the profession I love. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one. In addition to the “regular” student trauma like drug/alcohol abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, poverty, absent parents, and mental health issues, teachers have also had to deal with the trauma of being one of the “helper” careers during a pandemic. It has been exhausting.

Although our teaching setup is quite different this year, the only thing that has kept me going is the relationship I continue to have with my colleagues.  Somehow they always know when I need a good prank to make me smile. For example, I have one particular colleague who likes to lower my chair so I have a hard time sitting in it. I’m no Jim Halpert, but I found a very realistic plastic cockroach that made the rounds of the building one day. I also figured out that I could cast my computer screen to the Smart TV in her classroom. I treated her class to a field trip via Google Maps. Silly? Yes. But what it says to me is, “I see you working hard, and you need to take a break and smile.”

It also teaches our students that their teachers are friends, and they actually like each other.

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2-8, and while I love all the gifts and goodies I receive from parents and students, I have a challenge for each of you. As educators, let’s lift each other up as we finish out our school year. Let’s smile, sing, write a note, leave a candy bar on a desk, and generally elevate each other. Let’s celebrate. We celebrate the accomplishments of our students; let’s celebrate surviving a year of teaching during a pandemic. It’s been a tough year for everyone. Let’s fill the teacher’s mugs of our colleagues near and far with peace and joy.


Denise Henggeler has been teaching 4th grade at Northeast Nodaway for 22 years; however, she has never taught the same lesson twice. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood/Elementary Education (1997) and her Master’s of Science in Middle School Education (2007) from Northwest Missouri State University. Denise co-wrote a grant for her school to become a NASA Explorer School. She loves being part of a district so small that the preschool through twelfth grade is housed in one building. Denise was named a 2020 Missouri Teacher of the Year Finalist, and she encourages students and colleagues alike to “Dare Mighty Things”! You can follow Denise on Twitter at @NEN4thgrade.

 




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