Why Every Educator Needs a Teacher Crew

June 12, 2018

Why Every Educator Needs a Teacher Crew
I stare at the clock glowing in the darkness, and it reads 4:32 a.m. In about 12 hours, I will join a team of teachers ushering dozens of children onto a stage and hope that:
  1. No one falls off the stage
  2. No one has to go to the bathroom as we are going on stage
  3. The lead roles arrive on time

I doze off for an hour and then wrestle myself out of bed. As I settle into my car, my phone rings and the name “Lesa” (a.k.a. my teacher BFF) comes on the screen.

“Good morning! Ready for your show?"

"No, I’m terrified. Oh, and can you give me the name of the woman who saw the boy you knew a few years ago?”  

My question seems indecipherable, yet she knows exactly what I mean. “The occupational therapist who helped the child with the gross motor needs? Sure, I will text you her name and number.”

What is this incomprehensible, coded language of teachers? How can we spurt out sentences that make no sense, and be met with complete and utter understanding? Like twins who construct a secret language, teachers have a shared conscientiousness that transcends reason and many rules of grammar. And this is just one of the reasons we could not survive without each other.

I had a regular job once–more than a decade ago. I dressed in Banana Republic and Ann Taylor clothing, and I made twice the salary I make now. I also hated it–every single minute of it. When I was rushed to the emergency room with chest pains at the age of 34, I decided I was done, and I became a teacher. I quickly realized that I loved it, but that I needed teacher friends to survive.

Why is having teacher friends so important? Allow me to count the ways. 

  1. It’s not your average job. Most adults get to do things like chew gum, wear open-toed shoes on hot days, and go to the bathroom whenever they feel the need. Teachers need friends who understand that all of the previously mentioned habits are privileges we dare not dream of while at work, and that it’s okay.

  2. We need resources. When I told a group of teachers that they could get Microsoft Office software for free as educators, I was more popular than I have even been in my life. Plus, everyone in my teacher crew MUST hear about Mr. D, Gerry Brooks, and other Internet champions of education who hilariously discuss the things we all think about.

  3. Misery (and ecstasy) loves company. Who else will understand the stress of having 10 parent conferences in one day? (Even if you love your students’ parents, it’s the whole sitting in a chair talking to adults part that is so difficult.) Who else will appreciate all your  New Girl references? Who else tears up when they hear a child read her first word, or see a struggling student get his first A?

  4. The huddle. Remember the documentary March of the Penguins? Those magical creatures traveled in a huddle, and took turns bearing the cold arctic winds. Similarly, teachers protect each other and their students, and it has never been more evident than today. From supporting other teachers as they march for fair pay and resources to literally saving their students’ lives, teachers need friends who understand the complicated twists and turns our professional lives have taken in recent years.

  5. Those wonderful kids. A little boy in my class was just starting to think about death, and he realized I was going to die one day. Choking on his words, he said to me, “I’m going to be sad when you die because I really love you.” Another student told her family they could not go on vacation because her teacher (that would be me) would miss her too much. Seriously, can you even handle how much your students love you? Your teacher friends not only understand it all, but they are willing to listen to these stories over and over again.

How can you find your teacher crew? Of course, you can find them at school. But you can also find them through volunteer opportunities, at conferences and events, and through online teacher education programs. Your crew is out there forming a huddle, and they need you as much as you need them.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.

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