Solitary: existing without others, going it alone.
Solidarity: mutual support within a group.
As educators, we have to be careful that we don’t become solitary. At times, we can find ourselves going to work, avoiding the staffroom, going into our classrooms and closing the door to the outside. After all, we went into education for the students and not for the interactions with other educators. Our classrooms become our second home. We have all had an experience where a student sees us outside of school and appears shocked and surprised that we actually have a life outside of the school. (Those people in our lives who know us well though, know that sometimes that is not too far from the truth!)
With a lot of the politics that goes on in the education system, it is understandable that, over time, you can succumb to being solitary. To cut yourself off from what goes on outside of the four walls of your classroom. Maybe its what you hear in the news during job action that starts the process. Maybe its a person on staff who seems to live to promote negativity and you become tired of that. Maybe its your life outside of school, when your children are little and your lack of sleep has an effect on your energy level. You need to conserve your energy for the students in your classes and not a whole lot is left over for fostering relationships with colleagues. Maybe you are focussing heavily on the lesson planning, the marking, the new technology that you want to learn about and utilize. Either way, you forget that other people are right across the hall and may be experiencing the same thing…going it alone.
If you recognize any of this in yourself, now is the time to make a change. A conscientious effort to open your classroom doors, allow the walls of your classroom to be permeable. Start sharing your ideas, successes and challenges with a colleague. Open the dialogue. So many folks will say, I simply don’t have time for that. Well, I say, you have to make time. The reward will far outweigh the effort it takes to engage in meaningful discussions with other educators in your school. Our schools are filled with people who have a wealth of experience. We have so much that we can learn from each other. After all, don’t we encourage our students to work collaboratively all the time. Haven’t you ever heard yourself say to a student “We have to learn to get along, to work together” ?
Of course, all of this is much easier to accomplish within a building where trust, transparency and risk taking are cultivated and promoted. There are people on every staff who you can identify as the leaders, the igniters. Who are willing to try new things. Start by reaching our to those people, or maybe you are one or used to be. Take that first step, be proactive. Invite someone into your class to see the learning that is happening. Not to watch you teach but instead to watch students learn.
Ask yourself why you got into teaching in the first place? More importantly, ask yourself, at the end of your career, how will you know if you have accomplished your why? You may be interested in certain topics in education, subjects, strategies. Share your passion. Encourage your colleagues to share with you. Together we can do so much. Go to a professional development event and sit with a groups of educators that you have never met. Step outside of your comfort zone. Engage in positive conversations around learning and foster your own growth mindset. When you return to your school, take the opportunity to share what you have learned with your colleagues.
You just may find that solidarity is a whole lot more fulfilling and energizing that solitary ever was.