I used to wonder how administrators could support me as a music teacher when they didn’t have any experience in my field. I had principals who were math teachers and reading specialists by trade (I even had one former PE teacher), but no one with any background in the arts. What could they possibly do to support me?
And then I became the person who had to walk into the classroom and provide feedback and support. Often, I walked into math and reading classrooms – what did I know of that content area?
Turns out…quite a bit. But not because I studied those areas directly. Because I reached out for support. I didn’t HAVE to know everything, because I had a network of others who knew more than I did. I could ask them questions, get ideas for best practices, and even small tweaks that could make a big impact. I was then free to share these with the teachers I was supporting, while also listening to what their needs were and addressing those needs head-on.
That’s one of the reasons I love our summer and winter online conferences so much. It’s freeing for all of us to know that we don’t have to have all the answers! I learn more from our presenters and participants each conference because we join in with the sole purpose of sharing and acknowledging that we are better together.
Frankly, I think we need more of this in education. Too often, people hold their knowledge, skills, and tips close to the vest out of fear that others will “steal” their ideas. But you’ll never get anything with a closed fist.
3 ideas for opening up and reaching out
1. Find your tribe.
Maybe it’s a group of like-minded educators in your school or district. Maybe it’s a Facebook group or Twitter chat. Whatever it is – find a group of educators who both understand what you’re going through and who have a variety of experiences. Then join in and start the conversation!
2. ASK more than you share.
I tend to follow the 3:1 rule. I want to be a learner first, so I ask 3 questions for every one idea I want to share. Sometimes, we’re so enthusiastic, we want to share all of our ideas. But people aren’t always receptive to that. Listen more, talk less.
3. Let go of your inner know-it-all.
As educators, we all have a little bit of “know-it-all” in us, or at the very least feel like we are expected to know it all. We aren’t and we can’t. Instead, be a “know-where-to-find-it” person. If you don’t know, reach out to others you know can help!
Before you return to the daily school schedule, do yourself a favor and build your networks of support. There’s nothing better to help you feel confident and empowered as an educator!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.