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How to Develop Positive Relationships in the Staffroom and Beyond

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Teaching is one of the toughest jobs around. Okay, so we’re not saving lives, facing enemy combat or attempting to manage the queue at Gregg’s on a Friday lunchtime, but it’s a high-pressured, stressful career that can take its toll on even the most committed among us.

So what can be done? How can we avoid being one of the many that leave the profession – approximately 40,000 in 2016? Well, one of the first things to do is to build positive relationships within your school environment.

How to Build Positive Relationships with Others

Building positive relationships with colleagues, children and parents is key to looking after your wellbeing. From supportive friendships to essential communication skills, these relationships can ensure that you feel confident to tackle the job on a day-to-day basis, particularly when faced with challenging situations or end-of-term-itis.

But what exactly makes a relationship ‘positive’? What skills are needed? And what, most importantly, are the benefits? Here are some of our top tips.

Establish your Personal Values

The best place to start is to consider what your personal values are. Why? Because you’ll then know whether a relationship is congruent to these values and whether other people respect what you believe to be important.

It also establishes a greater awareness of what values are important to other people too. This, in turn, creates a positive relationship based on mutual respect and understanding.

Relationships built on these firm foundations can only have a positive outcome. When you need someone to confide in or talk to, you’ll be more likely to seek the ear of someone you like and respect, rather than someone who responds negatively to you. Just knowing that person is there can give your confidence a boost.

Develop your Listening Skills

Are you someone who listens to others? And by listens, I mean truly listens. Not someone who lends half an ear whilst marking books or tidying the classroom, but someone who finds a quiet spot and gives their full attention. It can make all the difference.

This can be particularly important when establishing positive relationships with parents. Parents who feel respected and listened to are more likely to support the decisions you make. They’ll know you have their child’s best interests at heart. Not only that, you’ll gain a good reputation as the teacher who listens - a skill that is fundamentally important to all parents.

Listen to feedback and advice from colleagues and senior leaders too. You’ll make huge strides in your teaching and it will show those you work with, that you are willing to take on board the ideas and suggestions of others.

Build Your Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, author of the book, ‘Emotional Intelligence’ suggests that an ability to understand others, as well as the ability to manage our own emotions, is just as important as our IQ. Maybe even more so.

Goleman believes that, in order to build effective relationships, we must develop the skills of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management. By doing so, we can experience a greater number of positive relationships with those around us. EI also improves our relationship with ourselves.

So how high is your EI? The four aspects of emotional intelligence can be learned and practised on a regular basis. Why not see how you can improve?

Give Constructive Feedback

Not only is it important to build appropriate listening skills, it also crucial that you can give your opinions and feedback in a constructive way. As teachers, we predominantly give feedback to children. However, we also work with teaching assistants, senior leaders and other professionals, not to mention our relationships with parents.

In build these relationships effectively, teachers need the confidence to speak up and have their opinions/suggestions heard. Providing evidence-based feedback ensures that your ideas and feedback are constructive, particularly when having challenging conversations with parents.

Come to these conversations not only with the evidence to support your feedback, but with possible solutions too. Doing this will ensure that you build strong, positive relationships with everyone around you.

Visit the Staffroom

Many positive relationships are built, sandwich in hand, across the staffroom table. Workload may dictate how often you visit, but visit you must. Why? To get to know your colleagues and to ensure you take a break from the inevitable cycle of planning, preparation, marking and assessment.

A space to offload, the staffroom also provides you with opportunity to pick up new ideas or to simply talk about anything other than teaching. It doesn’t have to be everyday and it doesn’t have to literally be ‘in’ the staffroom. Many teachers we work with arrange a lunchtime walk with colleagues to get a change of scenery and to ensure daily exercise.

Whether you’re in the staffroom or enjoying a walk in your surrounding area, you will find that building stronger, more positive relationships with colleagues often happens away from the classroom. So put down that pen, and get out there!

Model Positive Relationships for Children

Children are like sponges, so what better attribute for them to soak up than positivity? Understanding how to build positive relationships must start at a young age, which is why in our Happy-Centred School programme, we begin teaching it in the Early Years. But it can be a complicated thing to get right!

As teachers, we must model this effectively, showing the children what it means to listen, to be empathetic and to have the confidence to voice our opinions. With the support of parents, we can then build emotionally intelligent children, who are able to build positive relationships with those around them. This is a skill that will stand them in good stead as they move through secondary education and into adulthood.

Create a Positive Environment in the Classroom and Beyond

An understanding of what constitutes a positive relationship can start in the classroom and filter out into the playground. Unstructured times are often the most challenging for children, and can test the limits of friendships and relationships with their peers.

If, as a teacher, you can create a positive environment in the classroom, the children should naturally begin to take this positivity with them wherever they go. Creating an environment where everyone feels listened to, for example, will mean that when conflict resolution is needed, children will understand that they need to listen as well as be heard.

Promote positivity with rewards and highlight the actions of children who actively seek to build positive relationships with their peers. Build your own positive relationships with the children in your class so they can see the benefits first hand. Make your classroom environment one that each child looks forward to entering each day.

Be a Sociable Susan, not an antisocial Andrew

Teaching can be an exhausting job, so when the social secretary asks whether you’re coming for drinks at your local pub, the temptation to go home, put your pyjamas on and dive into a box set can seem all too tempting. But I urge you to reconsider!

Many positive relationships with colleagues can be cemented on a staff social. Relaxing, letting your hair down and chatting with them about school or travel plans or that latest box set, can be just what’s needed to get to know each other a little better. You can leave the school persona behind and get to know the real people behind the cardigans.

Now, we’re not suggesting that you forgo an early night when you need one; we’re simply suggesting that you try and find a happy medium. If staff nights out are few and far between, try to attend when they do take place. If they happen every week, try to attend one or two a month. It’s entirely up to you, but in our experience, we know that positive relationships with colleagues can quickly turn into friendships that last for many years.

And when times get tough, who do you need more than a good friend to help you through?

Positive Relationships Across the School

Building positive relationships across the school community is at the heart of our Happy-Centred School programme, as we understand how important they are for everyone within it.

Taking the time to nurture and build your own positive relationships with colleagues, leaders and parents can do much for your wellbeing and for your own personal development. So, how positive are the relationships in your school? What can you do to improve them?

Steph Caswell

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Dave McPartlin:

Dave is the Headteacher of Flakefleet Primary School.
Creating the right environment for people and communities to flourish

Sunita Hirani

Sunita is one of the BBC’s key equality, diversity and inclusivity experts.
Why inclusion is essential for mental wellbeing

Professor Sir Cary Cooper

Cary is one the world’s most influential voices in occupational health and wellbeing.
Enhancing Mental Wellbeing at Work. Evidence based strategies for creating a wellbeing culture at work.

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