The Greatest Added Benefit of Our Work—Each Other
People often use the phrase, “We’re in this together” when things get challenging. It’s reassuring, helpful, and even motivating to know you’re not alone in a difficult situation. But I’d like to flip the script on this phrase and use it another way.
For educators, I believe being "in this together" is about sharing something positive—the impact we have on human lives. The truth is that every role in education depends on every other role. Making our togetherness positive and happy can greatly enrich our schools.
Here are two ways to do that:
1. Increase Positive Relationships through Validation
Education is fundamentally service based—humans helping other humans. But that service goes beyond teachers teaching students. From an office assistant who warmly greets families coming in to register, to a custodian creating a safe and healthy environment for learning, to an IT technician who works overnight on a program rollover, they all serve the same students. I could list thousands of roles, responsibilities, and contributions that sit far from the act of teaching, yet they all play a part in creating a positive student experience day after day, year after year.
Reflecting on your contribution to student impact is an important step to building positive relationships in your workplace. First, recognize and honor your piece in this amazing puzzle—your specific impact, talents, and passions within your job. Then, acknowledge the contributions of people around you who support the same students. You can begin internally through mental recognition and then expand to let others know you see and truly value how they are impacting the students you both share.
Our students. Our contributions. Our impact. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop seeing how woven together and interdependent we are for an “in-it-together” contribution to students’ lives.
2. Recognize the Causes of Happiness in Our Work
Happiness seems to be very difficult to create in the workplace. In fact, there are entire initiatives and trainings on this very topic. How can you increase happiness in a workplace full of different types of people? What could possibly make them all comfortable and happy? Storm Jameson, an English journalist and author in the early 1900s, advised us that happiness isn’t about comfort at all. Instead, it’s about recognizing where the roots of happiness derive. “It is an illusion to think that more comfort means more happiness,” she said. “Happiness comes from the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed.”
I know that being educators uniquely provides us with the ability to feel things deeply, enjoy things simply, think freely, and take risks—not something you find in most jobs. Let’s evolve from trying to get to a place that feels comfortable in hopes that we will be happy once we get there, and instead let’s recognize the causes of our current happiness, which will be different for different people. I would go a bit further and encourage you to share these causes with others. A simple sentence starter might be: “Can I tell you what caused me some happiness today?
Happiness is not something elusive that we need to work toward. By sharing the many different causes of our individual happiness, we can collectively increase the positivity in our schools.
We Are in This Together
I am looking forward to another year of working with all my education colleagues, both near and far, because we are in this together. We get to be in this together. We chose to be in this together. We need to be in this together. Let’s enjoy that togetherness.