The Candles you surround yourself with

It’s so important who you choose to spend time with.

As I get older, I find myself pruning my friendship circle, Marie Kondo-ing my circle of acquaintances and only giving time to those people who spark joy.

At work, the educators that you surround yourself with also play a critical role.

Sometimes you can’t control who you spend time with. There might be a team member who constantly complains and refuses to take any responsibility for what happens to them, but you have to see them at staff meetings every week. There might be a colleague who gossips unprofessionally and speaks ill of others behind their backs, but you’re working on a project with them which requires you to collaborate at least every fortnight.

But then there are choices you can make that will impact the tone of the conversations you have each day while you’re at work:

You can choose to not engage. If a workmate tries to lure you in to an unproductive session of name and shame, walk away. If you can’t walk away, then by all means let them debrief, but don’t add fuel to the fire. Change the subject, offer a different (more positive) perspective, or distract them with something shiny!

You can try to change the tone. If you’re stuck in a conversation that’s going around in circles and there’s no way out, push it in a different direction by asking things like “why do you think that happened?” or “what would you like to see happen next?”. If you have to be in the chat, at least try to make it productive. Besides, forcing them to take a step back and reflect might be just the encouragement they need to want to move along. You’ll also be showing them that you’re not just a doormat or the kind of person who allows whining just for the sake of whining.

Positivity attracts positivity. If you want to be inspired by the passions of your peers, share your own. Tell them about a book you read that gave you an idea for something you want to try out in your room, boast about a fabulous piece of work one of your kids created, speak about how proud you are of that kid’s accomplishments.

Encourage gratitude. Try to model seeing the silver lining in every situation. Promote discussions about why teachers got into teaching and what gets them out of bed each morning. Count your blessings and consider those less fortunate in the hope that others will too. Remember the good times and the funny times and the silly times; forget about the bad. Break into song if it’s required: “let it go, let it go…!”

Take inspiration from the students. Just like kids do, take the time to “audition” your colleagues to find out who’s a good fit for you. Have lunch with different colleagues each day of the week, and discover who sees the world the way that you do. Or who challenges you, but in a good way.

Then, when you’ve found those people who remind you of how much you love your job, who spark a renewed sense of vigour, who make you want to do better and be better, stick with them. If they’ll have you!

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