Finding support is only half the battle. It is important to establish teacher support systems.
Once we have a support network in place, we need to not be afraid to make use of it.
This can be surprisingly challenging for many of us. We have often been raised to be as independent as possible. Asking for help can feel like weakness – something that we are taught to avoid as much as humanly possible.
But it is important to remember that no one person can do it all. By asking for help when we need it, we are actually making ourselves stronger by helping to preserve our physical, emotional, and professional integrity.
Today I am going to discuss three different ways that we can make reaching out for support part of our normal lives.
How To Make Use of Teacher Support Systems
Strategy One: Make a Plan
Begin by figuring out what areas you need support in most often. This will be individual to you and your situation.
Make a list of everything you need to get done. Then flag the areas that are causing you the most stress. For example – is it finding time to grade your students’ work? It could also be a personal stressor like commuting time or daily household chores.
Think about your own life and situation – physically, emotionally, and professionally.
What is it you need? Who can provide that support? What plan can you put in place to get the support you need?
Once you have figured out what is the main cause of stress in your life you can start to ask for help. You can talk to people who might have ideas that you have not considered.
Here are some suggestions:
- Utilize grocery pick-up and delivery services – they will save you time.
- Find someone to commute to work with if your commute is long.
- Arrive to work early or stay late one night to tackle your grading and planning.
- Hire a cleaning service to help out with household chores.
Strategy Two: Make Connecting a Priority
Having teacher support systems, structures and a plan in place only works if your support people know what is going on in your life.
Make a point to regularly talk to them. A standing coffee date with your best friend, regular phone conversations with your siblings, a weekly team meeting during a planning period or lunch, date night with your partner – these are all great ways to keep in touch with your support (as well as help provide support to your friends and colleagues).
And when things get busy, don’t push these things by the wayside – make these standing appointments as important to your life and health as brushing your teeth or turning in your grades on time.
Get creative about spending time with friends and family. Ask your friends to meet you at your child’s hockey practice or soccer game. Plan a grading date with another teacher friend. Call people on speaker phone while you prep dinner.
If you don’t make time to connect with the people that matter to you then you are robbing yourself of precious time that cannot be made up only during holiday breaks.
I did not follow this advice in my first five years of teaching and lost some valuable friendships.
Strategy Three: Look to Others for Advice
Continually remind yourself that you are not in this alone. You don’t have to have all the answers – that is what you have a support network for.
When you have a problem, it is okay to just have a problem. When you don’t feel your best, it is okay to not know why or what to do about it.
Look to your support network for ideas and counsel. And when they give it, don’t be afraid to try it even if it is something totally new and outside of your comfort zone. Ideally, you have built a strong and wise support network for yourself. Let them help you.
The particulars of how you execute all of this is going to be specific to your individual situation – maybe you are particularly good at composing calm and reasonable emails to confrontational parents, but you really struggle with the grading load at the end of a term.
Maybe the area you need support in has more to do with your self-confidence or with your ability to say no even when you are already significantly overcommitted. Learn how to say no and set boundaries in this blog post.
Whatever your specifics, craft your support plan around your own personal needs; you will only make yourself, your teaching, and your life that much stronger and better.