Sunday, November 30, 2014

Maintaining Rapport with Colleagues: November's Stepping Stones

For November's Stepping Stones, I focused on Maintaining Rapport with Colleagues.  To often issues arise with co workers that could have been avoided, and at times, we need to be the beacon of light that brings the peace and warmth to a workplace.

When working in a school setting, you have colleagues you interact with for a good portion of your day. It’s awesome when we help each other grow in our profession, but friction can hit due to instructional differences.  It is important to maintain relationships with those you work with because students can see when there are disagreements between adults.   I listed some of the most common roadblocks art educators may have with different colleagues and how we can work to have a positive professional relationship in our school setting.

Administrators are extremely busy people, and as much as they say we are an important part of the school, they also have the rest of the staff to think about.  With so much coming down from the top, they may not be thinking about art needs, let alone the specials with immediate situations.  I have found that the best way to maintain rapport between the art department and administrators is to advocate effectively. 

Secretaries are amazing people who do so much for our school behind the scenes that we don’t see everyday.  There have been many times when an art teacher needs information only provided by the secretaries, but sometimes we’re not able to get what we need in a timely manner.  Patience, understanding, and communication is always key.

Custodians make sure our environments are physically safe and effective for teaching.  They clean up the spills, unclog the clay out of our sinks, and even sweep up the remaining glitter left after a day full of art projects.  Custodians appreciate it when we communicate with them.  If you’re going to have a messy day with paint and clay, let them know!  

Specialists are in the same category as art teachers.  They’re frustrated when they feel isolated and unheard.  As a result, we each feel protective of our spaces and can snap when toes are stepped on, especially when art supplies and musical instruments are crammed in the same closet.  Understand that they may feel the same way you do when you’re frustrated, and if spaces are shared, communicate to alleviate further disagreements, and collaborate to create a more positive working space.

Paraprofessionals are staff that we may work with the most because they’re with the student while you’re instructing.  One of the common frustrations is that they try to do the projects for their students.  I find the best way to support each other is to communicate your expectations right away.  Understand adaptations will happen and explain how they can assist you and the students during your class time. 

Classroom teachers have their students for the biggest part of the school day.  When they have specials classes, it is their own time to plan.  One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from art educators about classroom teachers is the lack of respect they feel they receive.  To improve this relationship over time, always share what your class has made in art and ask questions on what they’re learning to promote future collaboration opportunities.  The more you advocate the connections between core subjects and the arts, they more respect you receive.  

To alleviate future unpleasant confrontations, always communicate effectively.  You’re not always going to please everyone, but being a shining beacon of light can help others to shine as well. 

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