SupportED: Finding Your Tribe
The teaching profession can be rewarding, but also be rather demanding and therefore isolating. As a teacher, you may recall many moments when you knew you needed to eat lunch, but felt compelled to keep working and therefore shirked your sandwich for a quick bite of a (maybe bruised) banana instead. You ended up working until the end of the day, or perhaps past your contractual hours, and arrived home completely devoid of energy. However, the wellness of an educator is paramount. The support that educators can provide to one another is essential to their individual and collective well-being.
This school year, we want to encourage you to make time to “find your tribe.” This tribe can consist of colleagues who teach on a team with you, those who teach the same subject, or anyone with whom you feel a connection. Your tribe can be a cadre of confidants with whom you can talk (and vent to) safely and honestly. Your tribe can also be a professional learning circle where you can discuss important matters related to professional growth, student needs, and school culture. Your tribe can be a book club, group of walking buddies, or coffee date crew. No matter what, it’s important to find connection with others. Collegial support and camaraderie is essential for navigating the challenges of being an educator and brings opportunities for teachers to refuel and connect. Conversations with your tribe can introduce fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and solutions to problems faced inside (and outside) the classroom. Moreover, these relationships can help you realize that you are not alone in your experiences. After all, empathy is a real comfort. You can also be open about your needs and reinforce accountability: “Come get me if you see me working. I need to eat my lunch!” or “Don’t let me stay past 3:00PM today. I need a rest.” The caring and support for one another can make a great difference.
However, it’s also important to recognize and accept that not all people thrive in a social setting and instead prefer solitary routines, which are equally valuable. In the same way that a “tribe” of people can support you, so can a routine or ritual. Such practices can allow you to recenter and find peace during the work day. For instance, mindfulness exercises during lunch breaks or moments of quiet reflection while walking around the school’s campus can serve as effective tools for managing stress and maintaining focus. Carving out dedicated time for self-care, whether it’s reading, writing, or pursuing a personal interest, helps you maintain a healthy work-life balance and fulfills your human needs. And remember, if a student or colleague spots you engaged in your mindfulness routine, you’re setting a great example and reminding that person just how important that practice is. In that way, you’re modeling for the whole “tribe” while maintaining your boundaries and preference for solitude.
No matter what your role is in the education system, finding your tribe, building your personal support system, or having a ritual to turn to as a school-based professional is essential. Whether you’re a veteran or a novice, consider the importance of these practices for your students and remember that the same benefits can help you. So, if you haven’t connected in a while, make the effort. Or, if you see that someone is usually alone, ask if they’d like to join you (and maybe your tribe). If you notice that a colleague is stressed, encourage them to find a daily practice or ritual for decompression. Together, educators can empower each other. A tribe, whether formed in the midst of social interactions or within the folds of seclusion, is a testament to the strength and spirit of educators.