Getting along with colleagues

Getting on with colleagues is par for the course in most jobs, but as a new teacher you could find that it is crucial to your success. Particularly in light of the fact that 86% of new teachers take on new responsibilities with little support, according to 2006 study by the Training and Development Agency. By tapping into the knowledge of experienced colleagues, you may find a pragmatic way to resolve dilemmas.    

It’s crucial to make use of the wealth of expertise held by colleagues, says Laura Thomas, secondary school newly qualified teacher.  “The most valuable advice I could give to a new teacher is to explore different ways you can gain support from colleagues,” she says.

Rebecca Knowles, secondary school newly qualified teacher agrees and points out the value of staffroom friends.  “I have a fantastic support network.  My mentor is brilliant and I know that I can go and see anybody in my department if I have any concerns,” she says.

Cynthia Francis, deputy headteacher of Norbury Manor Business and Enterprise College, Surrey, stresses the importance of building up a network of support.  “Identify other teachers who can offer you support and who have different levels of expertise. Seek out people you can relate to,” she says. 

Achieving harmonious staffroom relations is no easy task, though. Of all the calls received so far this year from newly qualified teachers to the Teacher Support Network, relationships with adults at work was a top issue. 

Carole Spiers, international consultant on corporate stress and BBC broadcaster, suggests five key drivers for successful relationships:

  • Be prepared to listen to another person’s point of view.  New teachers arrive in school with lots of enthusiasm and new ideas.  Older colleagues have the advantage of age and experience so it pays to listen before trying out new ideas.
  • Be respectful of age and experience; avoid appearing arrogant
  • If in doubt about a schools policy or procedure, ask for advice and do not try to wing it
  • Make offers of support even if it means working late occasionally
  • Keep personal opinions on issues such as politics and religion to yourself

Things to avoid:

  • Don’t be arrogant and dogmatic
  • Don’t be late for lessons or meetings
  • Don’t dismiss tried and tested methods as nonsense
  • Don’t isolate yourself with your mobile phone at break times
  • Don’t shout or interrupt in meetings

Make the effort, advises Vicky Cornwall, newly qualified teacher.  “Go to the staffroom every day,” she says.  “It is so easy to keep busy in your classroom but you need adult interaction.  It’s also refreshing to have a break.”

And don’t struggle on your own, says Vicky.  “Just by mentioning things in the staffroom, people around you naturally offer answers,” she says.

Carole Spiers is a vice president of the International Stress Management Association UK, author of books on workplace stress and BBC broadcaster.

Need more advice? Visit Trainee teachers and NQTs

Have you managed to make the most of staffroom relationships? Post below and let others know.