Thursday, October 2, 2008

Am I a Good Colleague?

Terry Shay asked, “What are the characteristics of a great colleague?” on Plurk and Twitter and then listed the responses in his blog, TJ on a Journey. I thought it was a great list and thought about some encounters I had with colleagues and what caused us to either have a great relationship or not. I hope I learned from others what I didn’t want to be like.

One teacher was very clingy and depressed. I tried to support her by listening and giving suggestions but I guess that wasn’t what she wanted. I refused to do work through lunch because I needed that distress time and she perceived me as being irresponsible. Yet, I got all my work done and enjoyed life while she spent afternoons crying in her classroom. Finally she told me that I was not a good friend because when I left school, I focused on my husband and had fun instead of calling her up to spend time with her. I guess from her viewpoint, I was not a good colleague and I didn’t feel she was either because she was too needy. My family is important to me and will always come first. I later found out that her family didn’t spend much time with her and she was lonely but I still didn’t know how to help that and tended to distance myself from her. So, I need to make sure that I’m not to clingy or smothering.

There was another teacher that I really worked well with because we were honest with each other. We didn’t talk behind each other’s backs and discussed things if we didn’t agree on something. If I annoyed her by doing something she didn’t like, she came straight to me and told me so we could discuss it. She actually was the first teacher friend I had when I first started teaching and I learned a lot from her. Right from the start she taught me that honesty between colleagues was important. I knew exactly where I stood with her and there was no guess work (I was too tired at the end of the day to play guessing games.) I didn’t always agree with her but that was okay. We are still friends after almost 30 years.

I have worked with other colleagues who lied about me behind my back in order to gain favor with others. This usually backfired because when I heard about it, I immediately confronted them, because I don’t go behind someone’s back. I always feel hurt when I find out about this because I will never trust that person again and it is really hard to work with someone you don’t trust. I tend to automatically trust people until they hurt me and then I feel devastated but I refuse to let these people make me mistrust the whole world.

If I realize I make a mistake, I immediately tell the person that it affected and try to fix whatever I did. I think this is so important so that other people will trust me. My colleagues need to know if I mess up because what I do could affect them. Usually they will be right there to help me fix whatever I did and I try to do the same to them. I think this helps us respect each other.

Another thing I really appreciate is the colleagues that willingly offer to help and actually do help when I know they need to be doing other things. My first year as department head, I had a report that had to be turned in the next day. I asked for my teachers to turn in the information I needed that morning but of course some didn’t and I had to chase them down. That afternoon I got the information and thought I could fill out the report easily but it wouldn’t come out right and I was going crazy. Another colleague stayed with me until late that evening to help me and after four hours, we finally got it done. Unfortunately some of the info given to me by the others was incorrect which caused the report not balance out. This colleague didn’t have to do this but she did and I will be forever grateful. I always felt like I could count on her and I hope she knew I’d do anything for her too.

I hope you see yourself in some of the good situations I mentioned. Maybe you will realize that it is you that I’m talking about. If you do, know that you touched my heart and I thank you for being a great colleague to work with. I appreciate you and hope that I have let you know this because working with good colleagues is important to making my career more successful. If I’m happy with the people I work with, it spills over to my students and a ripple effect occurs. I hope I can cause a good ripple in the pond of education too.

photo credit: handshake I by oooh.oooh


TJ Shay said...

Your post made me think of my post from a different perspective....How would my colleagues describe working with me?

As I try to describe how I try to share and be helpful, maybe they see me as being pushy or judgmental of their teaching techniques.

I need to reflect on this some more. Thanks for making me think!!

Bill Gaskins said...

Pat--What a great post!!!I made me think hard about being a better colleague with those in and out of my building.


Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I've been looking for blogs about education and education reform. I created a blog for my father (he was awarded Michians 2007 Hispanic Artist of The Year for his work with his students in his art class). I'll have my father check your blog out.


Antonio Tapia-Perez

M-Dawg said...

Thanks for the great post - makes me stop and think about whether or not I'm a supportive and good colleague.

You always make me think - which is a good thing! :-)

loonyhiker said...

TJ: Thanks for inspiring me! I love reading your blog.

loonyhiker said...

Bill: I'm sure you are a great colleague and I can tell by the things you write and share. I'd love to work with you someday.

loonyhiker said...

Antonio: Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate you connecting me with your dad!

loonyhiker said...

m-dawg: Sometimes I even make myself think! LOL Thanks for stopping by and reading.