Elementary school community close knit?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by maestraraven96, Jul 19, 2018.

  1. maestraraven96

    maestraraven96 Rookie

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    Jul 19, 2018

    I will be a first-year teacher at an elementary school that goes from kindergarten to eighth grade. I was wondering what type of community elementary schools have with teachers. I know that from high school teachers there's a tight-knit community around support each other and I was just wondering if it was similar for the elementary level. What are ways I can get to know my colleagues because I will be a first year and haven't done this before any tips?
     
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  3. svassillion

    svassillion Companion

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    Jul 19, 2018

    I'd say it completely depends on the school. My first school was large. It was K-8 with 4 classrooms per grade and I didn't feel supported or felt like there was a community at all. I could go the entire year without seeing some teachers. When I began very few teachers took the time to introduce themselves to me. I was there for 2 years and left not being able to put a face to names of many teachers.

    My current school is small. It's K-5 with two classes per grade and it is definitely close knit. I love it! I knew right away it would be a good community because the teachers went out of their way to come and introduce themselves.

    If the teachers at the school you will be teaching in don't come to introduce themselves, I strongly recommend you go to them. Take some time to observe in staff meeting each teacher's personality and get an idea of their strengths. Once I knew my colleagues' strengths I was better able to recognize my own which I could then offer to them and be a contributing part of the community. I'd also recommend eating lunch in the teachers room versus the classroom.
     
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  4. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Jul 19, 2018

    Yep, I was going to say the same thing. No two elementary schools are the same and I don't think it has anything to do with elementary vs. high school. I have several friends who teach secondary and feel that many of their teachers act like they're in HS themselves with cliques and such. My first school was very small and very close knit. Many grade levels only had one teacher/one class, so I think that was part of it. People couldn't "hide" in their grade level teams.

    My current school is much larger with 3-4 classes per grade level. I feel like everyone just mostly sticks to their team. People sit with their team at PD and staff meetings, eat lunch with their team/go out with their team on work days, etc. Even at something like happy hours (which we don't do that often) it seems either the entire team goes or no one from that grade level goes. Teams do seem pretty cohesive and I do feel connected to my own team, but I think the school as a whole is very disjointed. I work in primary and I had 2 intermediate teachers ask me what I taught halfway through the school year last year!

    Tips:
    - Eat lunch in the lounge rather than in your room.
    - Go to things like work happy hours, holiday parties, baby/wedding showers, etc.
    - We have coffee in our teacher's lounge- if you have something like that you could spend a minute or 2 chatting to people there in the mornings
    -I don't know if this applies to you, but I'm a shy person by nature and find small talk difficult. Most teachers that I've worked with over the years have had children and there is nothing people love to go on about more! "How is little Johnny?" works perfectly to get people talking to you.
     
  5. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Jul 19, 2018

    I agree with the above that it's not so much about the level as it is about the individual school and the people within it. Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with the leadership. I've worked in four different schools (K-6, K-5, K-8, and 3-6), and the best indicator of a sense of community was the leadership capacity of the administrators. When the administrators made team-building and staff support a priority, the sense of community was much stronger than when the administrators seemed out to get teachers or just unable to manage conflicts and issues.

    You can't control your administrators though. What you can do is much of what has already been suggested above.
    - Eat lunch with your colleagues (Even if you don't want to... Personally, I like to work through lunch and get some alone time, but I know that I have a better vibe with my team when I stop to eat with them. It's worth giving up my own time in order to build a relationship with my teammates.).
    - I'm not good at this myself, but socializing with people outside of your own team seems to be a good way to build community, too. I've noticed that the people who are either talking to people from other areas of the building after school or attending happy hours - that sort of thing - often seem to be more connected to the community. I'm introverted by nature, so I don't personally do this very often, but I've seen it work for other people.
    - Be willing to branch out and help others. It really helps to build a sense of community when you are willing to give up your own time and resources to help out a colleague in need.
    - Don't gossip or get involved in drama. Avoid it. It's easy to get caught up in drama and make strong connections with one or two people who talk to you about the drama, but then you end up alienating yourself from others. Just don't do it. You can listen to others gossip, if you must, but don't contribute to it.
     
  6. geoteacher

    geoteacher Habitué

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    Jul 19, 2018

    It really does depend on the school culture. I have a close relationship with my grade level peers, but, quite honestly, because of the configuration of our building, I can go weeks without seeing some of my other colleagues. I am not sure that I can even name all of the 4th or 5th grade teachers in our building because, they are in a different wing and have completely different lunch and prep times. Also, their professional development is often centered around reading and math, so I don't even see them on PD days.
     
  7. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Jul 19, 2018

    That depends on your school district. High school here is very much divided. It used to be divided by department, and departments had little interaction with one another. Then it changed and some of the departments couldn’t stand one another, so the meetings were fabulous. :rolleyes: One elementary school seems to be very tight knit, while another has a clique that is really bad for excluding others. The middle school has a good community overall, with just a few people over the years who cause a rift in things.
     
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  8. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Jul 19, 2018

    Those “few people” work at every site!
     
  9. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    Jul 20, 2018

    It's especially difficult for everyone when those few are chummy with the principal - been there too.:(
     
  10. TeacherWhoRuns

    TeacherWhoRuns Companion

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    Jul 20, 2018

    I've never been at a school site that I'd describe as close knit by the entire site. I've found that the grade level teams are very competitive when it comes to resources and 4th grade gets very upset when they think 2nd grade has something they don't have. There are also grade level teams that work closely together and other grade level teams where everyone is on their own. I've had admins that foster collaboration and others that will encourage teachers to throw each other under the bus. I had a principal who actually told us to privately inform her if we knew of colleagues using materials that were not from the purchased curriculum. Her reasoning was that she didn't trust TPT stuff, but her delivery really caused a problem among the staff because there are those happy to be moles and those who don't rat out others.

    Your question is a good one, but like most people say, it depends. All you can do is go in with an open mind and try to be friendly to everyone. If you're lucky, you're walking into a great workplace. Just be careful and stick to very fluffy subjects for a while. Don't get drawn into complaints and I'd also always advise against sharing too much personal information at work.
     

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