How do YOU build a teacher army?

5:00 am BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

There goes the alarm clock, I haven’t heard it in two weeks. Christmas break is over, the new year has begun, and it’s time to get back in the routine of school.

5:15-6:15 am I’m going through the routine of morning meditation, getting dressed and ready to walk out the door and start my day. I’m thinking about everyone that I haven’t seen in two weeks. This time feels like an eternity since I am accustomed to seeing them every day. I’m excited to hear about their break.

6:30 am Arrive on campus. Go through a few greetings. Turn the computer back on and get started with the new day/week/quarter/semester.

6:50 am The bell just rang, and students are racing onto the dark playground to swing and climb. They haven’t had the opportunity to play here for two weeks, and they are excited to get reacquainted with the playground!

The conversations are reasonably predictable. Sleepy greetings, excited greetings, students eager to share what gifts they received, adults are talking about how the time passed too quickly.

We’ve all had these conversations at school with our colleagues and students. Some of my closest friends are my “teacher” friends. We hold one another up day in and day out. We celebrate, strategize, and cry together. We walk through some of the best and worst times together (both personal and professional).

As we begin the second semester, I am reflecting on 2019 and setting goals for 2020. One of those goals is to be more intentional about building up those people around me during ordinary times.

So what am I doing regularly to build up those around me?

How do I show appreciation for colleagues and students during the mundane and uneventful times?

I have found myself reflecting on Aaron Hogan’s blog, “The Good Old Days.” He talks about writing a letter to a colleague that is retiring. He ponders why we “wait” until someone is leaving our school to tell them how much they influence our work life. Aaron is a huge proponent of reaching out to teachers around us and building the profession. You can check out his book Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth for more on that idea.

I want to address the myth we believe as teachers (and parents/community members too): teachers know how much we appreciate them. We must be intentional about letting people know how they impact us, and that we care about their well-being.

Teaching is a challenging and stressful profession. It stands to reason that if I need encouragement, so do those around me. Nicole Wolf wrote a blog about how she tailors support for the novice teachers she supports as an instructional coach. She has some great suggestions, and you can read about them here.

I decided to do some informal research. So I posted on two social media sites asking teachers about the little things that make them feel appreciated. Here are the responses:

  • Speak positively about our kids ❤️
  • Tell me all of the great things that are happening in their classroom that are helping students succeed, engage, thrive!
  • Show up and pick kids up on time
  • She brings me an orange soda when we have had a rough day.
  • Leave little notes when you see they’ve done something nice/thoughtful
  • Brag on something that was good.
  • My colleague makes coffee for our dept every morning. It may seem like a small act, but it makes me feel more like a human. It means a lot to me.
  • I get handwritten cards of encouragement! The best!
  • I write handwritten thank you notes. Not sure if it builds up, but I try. (I think the previous response answers the doubt)

As I look over this list, I am reflecting on what I can do during 2020 to build up my colleagues. Some things that I am already doing, I will continue:

  • Having a friendly greeting and a smile when we meet.
  • Asking about family and events in their lives.
  • Offering a helping hand when needed (a bathroom break, help when the copier is acting out, opening a door, making coffee, etc.).
  • Keeping a positive attitude.

I have ordered a bulk set of blank note cards, and I am making a goal of writing something to each staff member this semester. The handwritten note seems to be a potent tool, and it doesn’t seem to be used as much as it could be.

What will you do to lift up your colleagues? What do you need from your colleagues? 


photo credit:


Susan Collins

I began my teaching career in 1991 in rural Mississippi. I served in 4 different communities in central and north Mississippi as a music educator, mostly elementary general music with one year as a middle school band director. I stepped out of working full time in the classroom for 9 years when my children were very young but never left teaching. I set up an early childhood music studio and taught music for children ages birth to age 5 (with an adult caregiver). I moved to in northwest rural Arizona in 2016 where I teach k-5 general music.

I achieved National Board Certification in the fall of 2016 and began my relationship with the Arizona K12 Center for Professional Development. I have served as a 2017-18 Arizona Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow and a Candidate Support Provider for National Board Candidates. I am passionate about advocating for the needs of rural schools and ensuring that every student receives an excellent education provided by passionate and qualified educators.

When I am not teaching, advocating, or writing about education issues, I am outdoors with my teenage children. I love hiking, reading, and going to musical performances. I can usually be found off the grid pondering my next writing piece!

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