Colleagues: Friend, Acquaintance or Enemy?

Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote about collegiality. In his play, NO EXIT, he said, “Hell is: other people.” While some of us in the field of education may experience the struggle of interacting with others at times, for the most part being with other people is what feeds us. Education is a social construct and to engage in it, people must usually be around other people.

Those of us who work in schools are surrounded by colleagues every day. We often see these people day in and day out for years. For some of us, these work-friends become our social life. For others, they remain only acquaintances, distant though familiar. A few of us may even work with school personnel who become combatants, enemies who cause us stress and grief.

How many of you see the same people each day for years, maybe even decades? Do you know them well? Are they friends, acquaintances or enemies? Perhaps there are ways to enhance our working relationships while still preserving our boundaries (keeping our work and non-work lives separate).

Think about the people that you see each day. What would your work life be like if people made more of an effort to connect with each other? What would happen if people asked each other about their lives? Would people welcome an opportunity to talk about their aging parents, their new children, their health, TV, movies, music?

As we approach this new school year, consider making an effort to reach out to your colleagues. Make some kind of connection with those that you see each day. Bring someone a cup of coffee, tell someone a story, inquire about his or her life. See if it makes an impact on the quality of your year.

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August 31, 2011. Uncategorized.

2 Comments

  1. C.Larson replied:

    I definitely thrive on colleague interaction and feel lucky to work with teachers I have become close to and do spend some time with outside the school day. I remember as a new hire, feeling uncertain, lacking confidence and connection and how important and meaningful it was to me to have veteran teachers that I didn’t know well share a story with me at lunch or even just give an encouraging smile in the hall and treating me like an equal. My father passed away the first year I began teaching full-time and it was unbelievable to me the support I received from colleagues with whom I had never engaged in even a handful of conversations. I was struck also by the stories shared by colleagues this past spring in farewell to faculty leaving the school (retiring, etc.), how such small gestures like bringing in flowers from your garden for a co-teacher’s desk or checking in to see how a challenging class went, can go such a long way toward brightening someone’s day and/or beginning a lasting friendship. This reminds me of the [Love and The Cabbie] story – how random acts of kindness can have a big impact!

  2. C.Larson replied:

    Sorry my link to the story didn’t work – you can find it here: http://www.wowzone.com/cabbie.htm

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