Do you have a teacher support network? You know the people I mean – ones you can turn to when things get tough?
Maybe it’s your teacher bestie who will let you cry on their shoulder when a parent has complained. Perhaps it’s your year group partner who you can have a giggle with during the staff meeting. Or maybe it’s your uni mates, who you call on to have a good old moan.
Support networks are fundamental to your wellbeing.
The Importance of Connection
As humans we are programmed to feel a sense of belonging. A sense of feeling like we’re part of a tribe. It’s why I like to think of the third pillar of wellbeing as ‘connection’, as without it we’d be lost. Struggling in a world that already feels chaotic.
Giving us shoulders to cry on when we’re sad or making us laugh so hard we think we’ll pee our pants, friends are so important to improving how we feel. In fact, recent research has shown that when we feel disconnected, our brains respond by taking us right back down to the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, as they think our basic needs aren’t being met.
Not somewhere you want to be at all, particularly in a job that is as stressful as yours.
So what if we could build an ideal teacher support network? One that gives you everything you need – from laughter when you need to plaster a smile back on your face, to an ear that listens to your deepest worries? Which types of support should you be seeking to find?
Well, here are a few ideas.
Building Your Teacher Support Network
A teacher support network is a bit like a tribe. Somewhere that you feel you instantly belong. It can have people in it from different areas of your life, that you know you can rely on. You don’t feel judged or worried about their opinions. You’re always welcomed with open arms. It’s full of people you trust and respect.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But what roles can these people in your tribe actually fulfill?
Someone who you know will listen to you completely. Often they’re someone you feel comfortable showing your true emotions to – i.e. they won’t judge you if you’re a blubbering mess after a stressful observation or a challenging call with a parent.
When you talk to them, they listen completely and aren’t distracted by things around them – listening with their whole body and giving you their undivided attention. Just like we often ask our pupils to do.
Yup, I’m sure there’s a better name for this kind of friend, but it just works in this context! It’s someone you can turn to when you just want them to snap you out of a rut or a bad mood or a difficult day. They don’t let you spiral into self-doubt or criticism.
They’ll tell you when you need to snap out of it and stop talking shite. It all comes from a place of love, mind you. Never a place of irritation. Sometimes they can be hard to listen to, but sometimes it’s just what you need!
A friend in your teacher support network who won’t let you listen to your negative self-talk. When they hear you saying words like ‘always’ and ‘never’, they’ll challenge you to find evidence to support those comments. Can’t find any? Well then they’ll just remind you that it’s your inner critic giving you her best shot, rather than anything that’s steeped in fact. And if it is true, they’ll be there to help you figure things out.
The kind of friend who can really pull you out of a slump. Sometimes, when you’re being a negative Nelly, this member of your tribe can raise your spirits and make you laugh. They get where you’re coming from, but often they can put a much-needed humorous spin on the situation. When you need to smile, this is the member of your teacher support network that you call on the most.
5. Impartial Annie
The only member of your support network that gets an official name, Impartial Annie works in a completely different job to you. Maybe she’s in the corporate sector or maybe she runs her own business, but she has nothing to do with teaching and the last time she set foot in a school was to either pick up her exam results or to pick up her vomiting child.
Why is Impartial Annie an important part of your teacher support network? Well, she’s always asking questions to clarify what you mean. She doesn’t get the teacher lingo or the common day-to-day happenings in a school. The clarity she seeks into your problem forces you to explain it really clearly, giving you the opportunity to re-evaluate your thoughts and maybe see things from a new angle.
I saved the best until last. Your cheerleader is someone who’s going to boost you when you’re feeling crap. They’ll remind you of your strengths and bring you up when you’re feeling down. They give a good compliment and only have your best interests at heart – they just want to help you feel more positive about yourself and to remind you that you’re good at lots of things, particularly when you’re feeling good at nothing.
Gratitude for our Tribes
Your support network may be filled with people who fulfil each role separately, or with people who encompass a few of these roles in one. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you’ve got people to turn to when you need them. As you were reading this, you may have started to picture particular people in your head as you read each description. And it feels good, doesn’t it, to know that they are there for you whenever and wherever you need them.
So who’s in your tribe? Who, in your teacher support network, lifts you up when you’re down? Who makes you question whether you ought to start wearing a TENA Lady?
Whoever it is, they’re going to have fundamental impact on your wellbeing. So let’s be grateful for the friends we have – even if our bladders don’t alway necessarily approve!
- Support Networks IGTV video
- Beat Burnout Course – Module 4 is all about building support networks that work for you
- Coaching – if you need further support in your career, coaching is an option too. Check out my Coaching page now and let’s see if I can help.