I recently started working in a new college and I must admit, the experience has been great. I was reassured of what I already believed to be a very powerful but underestimated practice: asking for help. Many might see it as weakness, and oftentimes ego or insecurities hinder us from accepting that we could be overwhelmed, unsure, or confused when we start teaching a different level or in a different school. There are no secrets to this practice, but there are ways to ask for help without sounding like you have absolutely no clue what’s going on (hopefully that’s never the case) or without seeming too needy. So, then, why should we ask for help and what’s the ‘right’ way to do it?
First, asking for help lets other teachers know that you are a team player; you don’t see yourself as separate – there’s no me and you, but rather an US. You are friendly, approachable, pleasant and this will open the line of communication. Second, the chances are they would love to help; we all get a sense of satisfaction from helping others and feeling needed. Teachers are, after all, the philanthropists of education. Finally, because you value your work and your students, you want them to get the best possible learning from your class – who could give you better tips about what that is other than a teacher who might have been teaching that specific level for a long time?
When asking for help, don’t just jump into the question, of course. Introduce yourself, make an effort to remember their name, and be sure to greet them whenever you run into them in the future. Don’t just ask what they’re teaching that day but rather start with what you’re planning on doing and then ask for feedback. Be open! Once you’ve received the feedback, take a step back and consider and then decide if you want to use or adapt the lesson. And of course, be thankful and do say thank you. In the future, share your lessons or any WOW moment you’ve had in your own classroom.
Asking for help does not need to be only about teaching points. Think about classroom management, disruptive students, fun activities, lesson planning, time management, building curricula, and even damage control! Think about the hours that go by when you’re having casual conversations with other teachers only to realize you’ve just shared an abundance of useful information! If only you were taking notes!
Going back to my own experience, I was lucky because a brilliant coworker was teaching the same level I was assigned, so I asked him for help. How serendipitous! I can positively say that a lot of my activities and lessons are adaptations of lessons I’ve been given from other teachers, and I’m grateful to them!
So, in the spirit of this blog, I’d like to thank Farnaz, Amit, Marianna, Andrew, and Barry – you know who you are!