A new math teacher at my school is finishing up her study, and as part of it she sent the question to the math department “what makes a good colleague?”
I thought a lot about it and this is what I came up with:
I think a good colleague is someone who:
1. Listens and sympathizes with you when you’re struggling so that you feel you’re not alone in your feelings or problems (since teaching can be a very lonely profession in some ways, as most of the day you’re the only adult in the room). While they critically listen, they don’t simply commiserate with you (because then you wallow in your troubles and things can start to fester). Rather, they offer understanding and friendly suggestions (without making you feel like you don’t measure up) that help improve your teaching or your mood.
2. Brainstorms with you the best ways to present material, the best questions to ask (and what your goal is with each question you ask), the richest tasks you can set, the best ways to motivate students, etc. They think deeply about their subject material and how to connect it to the real world, other subjects, and students’ lives. They help make you enthusiastic for the subject you teach and excited by the possibilities of what can be done by a certain class.
3. Is reliable, trustworthy, and always does what they say they will do. They pull their weight and expect you to pull yours, but will step in to lend a helping hand when you’re faltering. They expect the same from you, which means that they trust you in return.
Luckily I think I have many colleagues who meet at least one of my descriptors above.
What’s on your list of attributes of great colleagues?