Kevin English and I were able to catch up at nErDcampMI last week and we swore we’d get back to challenging each other to blog. I was happy to see an email from him within 24 hours with the following topic:
Who do we trust more? People we work next to or teaching friends from afar?
That seemed like a charged question at first. Am I rejecting my friends and colleagues if I pick one over the other? Is this post going to come back to haunt me?
The more I thought about it though, I realized that I’m not asking the same things from these two groups.
My colleagues down the hall are the people I go to for advice about issues that require some knowledge of where we teach. What strategies worked well with this student? When is this paperwork due and how do we do it? Can you read this email before I hit send? How have you taught this ___ before? Have you read ___ yet? Do you think it should make sense to organize __ like this?
For my friends who teach farther away I feel like I can ask for advice that is impartial. I can share about something that happened in class (without names) and get their advice about what I can do better. I think I spend more time talking about resources and books and the ways in which we as English teachers can do better with these friends than I do the ones down the hall.
This could be in part because I have more time and means to do that with them. The school day is busy. Our prep times rarely overlap. We have families to care for when we leave. Usually our conversations are about catching up (which may or may not have anything to go with work) or are really quick and to the point.
It’s ironic, but I find time in more days than not to chat with one of my far away colleagues on Voxer or through text or social media. They are often about what’s happening in our lives, but so many times it’s about teaching and learning together. It’s part of why we became friends in the first place and it’s part of who we are.
I value and appreciate my colleagues at home and far away, but I honestly think that having my far away friends who happen to also be colleagues have made all the difference for me. It’s easy to get frustrated and burned out in this profession and they tend to be the ones who help me back up when I’m feeling beaten down.