The leaves have fallen, the holiday drinks are out in our favorite coffee shops and joyful carols are playing in all of the stores. It is really a wonderful time of year. At least that is the way it should be, but according to charts like the one below, this time of year is actually the most difficult time for first year educators. From my personal experience and my experiences with many educators, I would say that this chart spans well beyond first year teachers and includes a much larger group of educators. The year starts out full of hope and energy, but that can slowly fade away. But why? And what can we do to support teachers through this cycle?
To dig into this conversation I’ll start by asking why we would wait until April to begin the reflection phase. If the chart is correct, then five months, from September to January, are spent in a downward movement going from anticipation to survival to disillusionment. What if we change the cycle by moving the reflection phase to the start of school year with a focus on self-discovery?
By making self-discovery a routine ongoing activity where each staff member reflects on who they are, where they are going and what they need to get there, staff members will be equipped with tools to navigate the entire year. If teachers start the year identifying their personal strengths and leadership skills, they will be able to anchor on these when struggles occur. Closely related to identification of strengths and skills is identification of what motivates each individual and their preferred communication style. These are key for creating connections and knowing how to seek support. As a team member, this provides great insight on ways to support co-workers in a way that meets their personal preferences.
The benefit of taking time for self discovery goes way beyond just getting through the winter blues. These personal profiles are a great way to highlight both similarities and differences in people to strengthen teams and they are a great way to empower teachers to seek support, self advocate and leverage learning opportunities to move practices forward and blast through the times of disillusionment.
If you haven’t already done this, I suggest you take a moment to ask yourself — Can you identify your strengths, motivators and communication preferences? Can you name the strengths, motivators and communication preferences of your team members? If not, grab yourself a cup of your favorite holiday drink and start the self and team discovery conversations today to develop your own personal profiles!