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Five Ways That All Teachers Are Connected

The other day, I conducted a training session in a neighboring district. Some of the acronyms participants used were unfamiliar to me, as were references to policies and procedures. However, what struck me throughout this time with my fellow educators wasn’t how our experiences differed, but rather how similar they were. While plenty of variations exist among teachers and schools, there are also points of common ground that help to create connections with others both near and far. The more educators gather to talk about the work we do, the more we realize how much we share.

We love talking shop.

Last week, I took a quick trip to the beach with my family. We were sitting behind two women, and it quickly became apparent that they were teachers who had just finished the school year. Rather than chatting about their summer plans or their personal lives, they were instead debriefing the past year in the classroom, from how lessons went to the daily unpredictability of working with kids. Whether inside the classroom or out in the world, teachers love talking about the work they do. For one thing, it is inherently satisfying to bounce ideas off one another, get feedback, or have the opportunity to problem-solve with a trusted colleague. Furthermore, it takes a lot to process the events of each instructional day. Given that teaching is a recursive process and goals are focused on continuous improvement, having someone to talk to is of paramount importance for growth.

We understand the weight of our responsibilities.

Years ago, I sat listening to a panel of students as they talked about their experiences in school. One kid said something that will always resonate with me: “Teachers have so much influence on us, and I don’t think they realize that.” Upon much reflection in the months and years that followed, I ultimately decided that while teachers might not get the full extent to which we influence kids, we still understand that spending each day working with young people is a huge responsibility. Not only are teachers responsible for educating students, but also for keeping them safe in a world that is increasingly difficult to navigate for a variety of reasons. In fact, teaching is such a weighty profession that it has a high attrition rate that is at least in part because of how heavy a lift it can be. For those who remain in teaching for the long term, a constant awareness of how much kids rely on us cannot be overlooked, no matter how skillful we might be.

We know that change is unavoidable.

New curriculum? Check. A different principal? Par for the course. Building renovations? Absolutely. Moving from having a classroom to being a “floater” with a cart? Typical. While people might not like change in general, teachers are quite accustomed to any number of shifts from year to year. From making friends with new colleagues to welcoming a fresh batch of kids into our classrooms every fall, nothing ever stays the same, nor is it supposed to. Some changes can be significant and imposed upon teachers, such as the implementation of district initiatives that alter the way day-to-day business is conducted. On a more individual level, instructional practice is constantly undergoing adjustments and alterations; without it, learning stagnates over time. Some changes are embraced with open arms while others are resented, but one thing holds true: the only constant in schools is change.

We all get what it means to be “on” all day.

In some professions, bathroom breaks and having time to sit down are regular commodities. In teaching, they’re considered a luxury. Facilitating instruction all day requires both physical and emotional stamina. Beyond the demands of staying constantly alert and active, there is also the need to be able to think on your feet throughout the day. It’s no wonder that teachers go home exhausted, and that they enjoy the simple summer vacation pleasures of eating an uninterrupted lunch or simply being still for a few minutes. While being “on” all day is also stimulating and helps the hours pass quickly, it can lead to burnout. Therefore, finding ways to take short breaks is extremely important for long-term success in teaching.

We all want to help kids learn.

Regardless of what age or stage anyone teaches, everyone wants the same thing: to help students achieve growth. Why else would we be there? It may seem like an oversimplified observation, but the bottom line is always academic progress. How we help get kids there is varied, and people may disagree with one another about methods or approach. Still, almost every teacher wants the same outcome: student success. Those who disagree are definitely in the wrong line of work. 

Teachers are easily able to come together from all over the country and find plenty to talk about. When I was sitting behind the two teachers at the beach, it was so tempting to join their conversation because we had so much in common. The details of how each school or district is run certainly matter, but there is also power in knowing that no matter where we live, no matter what age or stage we teach, all teachers are ultimately connected to one another by the singular nature of the complex work we do.

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam Plotinsky is an instructional specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has taught and led for more than 20 years. She is the author of Teach More, Hover Less, Lead Like a Teacher and Writing Their Future Selves. She is also a National Board-Certified Teacher with additional certification in administration and supervision. She can be reached at or via Twitter: @MirPloMCPS

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