We just had our Teachers’ Day celebration on 2 Sep 2021. In Singapore, Teachers’ Day falls on the first Friday of September, just before the Term 3 break, so that teachers and students can rest after a hectic term.
The theme for this year’s celebration was ‘Superheroes’, not-so-subtly hinting that, because of the multiple roles and duties that teachers handle on a day-to-day basis, we are nothing short of superheroes (heh heh).
Just allow us to indulge ourselves for one day, k? =D
Here is a photo of my colleagues in our superhero costumes (the guy in the middle was supposed to dress as Clark Kent aka the real Superman):
Of course, I have not forgotten that this is a blog about calling. But calling is seldom an individual endeavor. People who share the same calling as you, or who are called to work and serve the same community, can bring much joy and fulfillment to our work when we cooperate well with one another.
So, as a Teachers’ Day Special post, let me indulge you in 3 reasons why having good colleagues can make your work so much fun!
1. Good colleagues work with us towards a common goal
Teaching, as a vocation (calling), is about nurturing the whole child. This goal manifests itself in different subject disciplines and student development programmes, but the essence is the same: we are all in the business of forming the soul of our next generation.
This is why having good colleagues who work with us towards this goal is so important. We not only share the same language; we share the same heartbeat. The old saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, defines the meaning of ‘synergy’ so well. Colleagues committed to the same goal are selfless to share their knowledge and ideas with us, and also bring out the best of our own.
I have the joy and privilege to work with a team of Chinese language teachers who each have years of teaching experience behind them. When we bounce off ideas with one another, bigger and better ideas are formed and we move one step closer to our goal.
At times when we lose our way, good colleagues remind us of the purpose why we enter teaching in the first place, and help us get back on track.
2. Good colleagues laugh with us and cheer us on
Don’t laugh – but studies actually show that humour is a key to success at work. Humour can lead to the following benefits, among others:
- It reduces stress
- It humanizes relationships
- It puts others at ease
- It aids in creative thinking
- It helps build trust
- It boosts morale
- It can increase productivity
Having colleagues who can laugh with you (and, if your ego can permit it, laugh at you) can make work so much more fun.
Of course, good colleagues do not just stop at the level of poking fun at each other, but really cheer you on when times are tough. And yes, 2021 is proving to be almost as challenging as 2020.
A teacher-mentor once shared with me that, if we look at the causative prefix en– in the word ‘encourage’, it gives the meaning of ‘imparting courage to someone who needs it’.
And true enough, teaching can be a scary job. We need all the courage we can get to go into a challenging class or confront a difficult student, to set exam papers days (even hours!) before the deadline, to organize an event, to engage demanding parents, and to manage all kinds of expectations and stressors. A good colleague not only looks out for his or her needs, but also checks on us to see if we are doing ok, and cheers us on when we are down.
3. Good colleagues listen with empathy and help us reframe our situation
There are many moments of weakness in a teacher’s path. Lessons that went wrong. Students that refused to comply with our instruction. Coworkers and managers that misunderstood us. Circumstances that derailed the best of plans.
It is very hard to face such difficulties alone. Good colleagues who have experienced similar (or worse) ordeals can truly listen with empathy, and offer valuable advice that helps us reframe the situation:
- What can we learn from this lesson that failed?
- What went right?
- What did we not know about the student?
- What perspective is the coworker / manager coming from?
I used to be very guarded about my struggles and weaknesses, afraid that others might use them against me. As I grow in my career, I come to realize that there is really little to be afraid of. Opening up myself to others actually invites them to do the same. Trust is built on authenticity and honesty. This experience dismantled my wrong perceptions in the past. I am now more confident about revealing my thoughts and weaknesses, confessing my mistakes and accepting others’ help.
The above is true for any workplace, but especially so in a school context.
Teaching is a helping profession, and most people who sign up have noble intentions. This is not to say that there is no office politics in a teachers’ staffroom – as fallen human beings, we are all marred by the effects of sin. But in general, I do find that teachers respond readily when we appeal to their altruism and ideals.
This is why, 15 years into teaching, I am still proud of my profession.
I hope this post has inspired you to reach out to your colleagues and be an encourager to them.
So, how has your relationship with your colleagues been? Do you see them as allies and friends, or as competitors? How might appreciating the diversity of gifts and personalities that our colleagues bring to the workplace make your work more joyful and positive? Share your thoughts below!