10 Ways To Help A Colleague Survive And Thrive

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Hazel Brinkworth

Hazel Brinkworth works in a British international school in Singapore and has been teaching for 7 years in 4 different countries: England, Thailand, Dubai and Singapore. She is a primary teacher with a passion for professional development, which she is involved in leading in her...
Read more about Hazel Brinkworth

How can we help our work colleagues?

Help! It’s nearly the end of yet another long week at school and you find yourself crawling to the end of the day without having said little more than two words to your colleagues.

We all have those days and weeks where we’ve managed to get through the day without really eating, drinking any water or even making time to go to the bathroom!

It’s time to be kinder to ourselves and to those we work with. It’s time to help ourselves and help each other.

10 Ways To Support A Colleague

As mental health awareness week draws to a close, take the time to do something nice for a colleague who might be struggling but not necessarily show it.

1. Be a listener

We are all busy but we can all find time to knock on a colleague’s door in the morning with a friendly ‘Good morning, how are you?’

It takes a minute or two but shows that you care, you’re available and that you’re part of a team. We all need someone to lean on occasionally, to share a problem or have a little cry! That’s what friends are for.

If you can, keep your door open in the morning or after work too. Taking away that physical barrier will make it more likely that you share passing moments with colleagues.

2. Share a smile

Make a conscious decision to smile at everyone you pass today.

It really can have a huge impact on others and positivity is infectious! I have a colleague who’s morning ritual is to walk past my classroom door and pull a silly face through the window – it puts a smile on my face without fail!

3. Make someone a coffee

I remember a particularly tough day when I was really on edge and I was walking back into my classroom after playground duty to find a fresh, steamy cup of coffee on my desk from the coffee shop.

This small act of kindness really brightened my day and made me realise I’m not in this alone. Whether it’s a tea, coffee, a chocolate bar or even relieving someone of their duty 5 minutes early, look after each other on those hard days.

4. Collaborate and share what works

This might look different depending on how big your department is but collaborating with your fellow teachers is a great way of easing the work load pressure. After all, the more heads on something, the more opportunity to bat around ideas you might not have thought of alone.

Making time to share good practice is useful from a professional development perspective but also from a reflection point of view. If a colleague has tweaked a lesson and it worked better for them, then tell others so they can benefit too. Forget being a workaholic.

5. Ask – can I help?

This might seem obvious but I don’t think it gets asked enough. Regardless of your role in school, we are all in the position to help each other. Whether it’s photocopying a few pages for a colleague, rehearsing a presentation with them or simply offering to cover a duty when they’re feeling swamped, every little helps.

Just knowing that there is someone who is looking out for you and has even thought to ask the question – Can I help? – really, well, helps!

6. Make time for lunch

Eating lunch at your desk, or worse, not making time to eat at all, is not only bad for your health but also for your emotional wellbeing (Don’t even get me started about the amount of germs your keyboard harbours!). Give yourself a break and physically remove yourself from the classroom.

Take a walk to the staff room or to the canteen and enjoy a few moments with colleagues not talking about work. Have a chat, share a joke and allow yourself those precious moments of down time. The photocopying and marking can wait! 

7. Merge classes and co-teach

Co-planning and co-teaching a lesson offers the change to share ideas, bounce off your colleagues and provide your students with a different style of learning. In a happy coincidence, it is also a great way of supporting your partner teachers. Some of the most exciting lessons I’ve taught have been when I’ve co-taught with a colleague. It’s fun for me as well as the students.

If you can’t co-teach with a colleague in the same year group or department, you could always mix year groups.

8. Shun negativity

This is a tough one. We all enjoy a good moan over a coffee in the staffroom occasionally but be careful not to let this spiral and turn into a regular occurrence. Be solution focused and look for how you can improve things for the better.

Put ideas forward to the leadership team and then, most importantly, stop moaning about it. You’ve aired the issues, sought solutions and put them on the table for discussion. At this point, you need to release the negativity and trust that leadership will make the right decision.

9. Be appreciative

Notice when someone has gone the extra mile and show your appreciation. Send them a thank you email, write a praise postcard or swing by their classroom and express your thanks in person. I keep a folder in my email inbox for positive thank you emails – it’s nice to read them every now and again.

10. Invite a friend out

Sometimes we all need a little reminder that there is life outside of our classroom. Invite a friend out for a drink or dinner and leave work at a reasonable time.

You will be of more use to your students if you are happy so look out for your colleagues and encourage each other to keep a good work/life balance.

2 thoughts on “10 Ways To Help A Colleague Survive And Thrive

  1. I love these suggestions…they have the spirit of generosity…which is always good for a work environment! And, they often provide clues about what you can do for yourself as well!

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