In the New School Year, Embrace Your Teacher BFF

Photo: Rachel Swartz (right) with fellow educator Marita Keane. (Courtesy of Rachel Swartz)

Everyone knows teaching is a social job. You are not only working with children for most of the day, but you are also interacting with so many different adults; it can be exhausting and overwhelming at times. Collaboration becomes essential, and naturally, friendships form.

If you’re a teacher, you know you wouldn’t survive the school year without leaning on some of your most dependable co-workers. Below are the top five reasons to thank your teacher BFFs this coming school year!

1. They teach you something new.

There’s nothing like planning a new lesson or unit with your teacher BFF. Part of the reason you probably became friendly in the first place is because you are good at bouncing ideas off of one another. Working with them can help you to create something you never would have thought of. Last year, some of my co-workers and I adapted my unit about human rights violations in fairytales to become a unit about female disenfranchisement in fairytales. It is something I would not have thought of on my own and has become one of the most rewarding units I’ve ever taught.

2. They inspire you.

I learned everything about classroom management and building relationships with students by observing my co-workers. When I’m at the end of my rope, I always try to take a step back and watch what my co-workers are doing. There have been times that I’ve had difficulty getting a student to follow directions or stay on task. Since my co-workers and I can communicate just through a look (cue The Office GIFs here), I was fortunate to have teacher BFFs swoop in and speak in a different way to which the student responded well. Watching my teacher BFFs build those strong student-teacher relationships was inspiring and reminded me why I became a teacher in the first place.

3. They humor you.

I have roped so many co-workers into dressing up for spirit days, role playing during one of my lessons, acting in videos I created to introduce a new project, and so on. For example, one year I filmed a bunch of my co-workers pretending to be different mythical creatures for a unit on Greek mythology! Another year they were featured sending positive messages in an anti-bullying video I made. For our unit on President Barack Obama, my teacher BFF and I even made a video called “The Obama and Biden of Education,” which compared our teaching friendship to the former president and vice president.

Most recently, my teacher BFF and I dressed up as various Disney princesses like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, as well as the Spice Girls, Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rosie the Riveters, and our favorite, Rachel and Phoebe from Friends. When dressed as Spice Girls (as well as Rach and Pheebs), we actually sang to the students in the cafeteria. Of course, we go all out for field days, spirit days, and college shirt days, with face paint and everything. Dressing up and being creative is one of my favorite parts of the job, and one of the best things about teacher BFFs is that they are good sports no matter how eccentric your idea may be.

4. They make you laugh.

Teacher BFFs always know how to hit your funny bone—whether they do something silly with your students, incorporate humor into one of their lessons, or remind you of an inside joke you have. Sometimes, my co-workers and I play little pranks on each other or stop by each other’s rooms to pass along a funny story.

In my building, there is a smaller classroom where teachers bring in snacks and coffee for everyone. It is sort of like an unofficial teachers’ lounge when classes aren’t being held there, and teachers often stop by at the beginning of the day or during their lunch for a treat and chat with one another. It is the best place to go for a quick laugh and the perfect way to start your day!

5. They have your back.

The most meaningful thing about having a teacher BFF is that they always look out for you. Teaching can be emotional, and it is important to connect with another teacher or group of teachers you trust to celebrate the good times and pick you up when you need it. Teacher BFFs understand why you got into this profession in the first place and know how to best respond when you go to them for something.

In my case, my teacher BFFs proofread worksheets, lesson plans, and emails for me; in fact, they have read all of the blogs I’ve written for HMH in advance! They lend me materials, remind me of deadlines, act as an extra set of eyes when grading, help me out when I’m not feeling well, and give me a heads up when there are extra snacks lying around. But most importantly, they listen to me when I need them. I am fortunate to have co-workers who let me vent, give me advice, and remind me that I’m doing a great job even if things didn’t go as planned. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and truly embody the phrase “teamwork makes the dream work.” Having strong relationships with your co-workers actually benefits the students too, because you are modeling good collaboration and communication skills. Actually, having teacher BFFs may be one of the best things about the job.  

So whether your teacher BFFs support you and go along with your zany ideas, or simply crack you up, remember to give them a big thank you at the start of the new school year—they deserve it! 

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Rachel Swartz is the first guest on our new podcast series, HMH Learning Moments: Teachers in America! Listen to Rachel's episode.

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