Sunday, November 21, 2010

The School Family - Guest Blogger Tonya Thompson

Oh, Thanksgiving. Time for all those F’s we love: Food, football  Okay, some of those things we love more than others.

I have had many discussions over the years with one of my fellow educators about people; people that we enjoy and those we don’t. Recently, we started talking about the way we perceive people with whom we work and how that affects the way we interact with them and the impact it has on the culture of a building.

It’s a fact, no matter where you go, there’s going to be someone who is, shall we say, difficult. This is true when it comes to your family and your co-workers. Some people are hard to work with. Some are hard to get along with. 

I’m not going to go all touchy-feely, and say, let’s all love each other and get along...that’s not my style. At all.

There is always going to be a principal who wants to push the “Family agenda” at school and try to convince everyone that the sense of community and caring are so strong the building just radiates with a glow of love and happiness.

I just can’t go there. But, are we, as teachers and colleagues, a family? Yes, I believe, we actually are.

What is a family, really? It’s a bunch of people you got stuck with. Some of them you love. Some of them you want to push off a steep incline. And chances are, that’s how you feel about the people you work with. Some of them make your day brighter, some of them you hope will get beaned on the head with a ceiling tile and be out for the rest of the year.

And while a family has the lovable members and the black sheep, the important thing is...everyone in that family is a uniquely talented individual. And THAT is what I care about.

Think about your best friend or the colleague you consider yourself closest to. You probably have a lot in common, but there are most likely ways you are polar opposites. You might be similar in many respects, but in others, you’re everything the other person isn’t and vice versa. Those kinds of differences are what is going to make the place you work fantastic.

Everyone in education should have two things in common – a love of education and a desire to impact lives. If you don’t wake up in the morning and WANT to change a child’s life for the better, it’s time to retire or find a new job. If we can agree on those things, we’re off to a good start because we’re all coming from the same place.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Everybody got their something.” Bad grammar aside, Nikka Costa was on to a great idea. Everyone is amazing at something or several somethings and I think everyone should be given the opportunity to show those talents. Working together helps cover our weaknesses because what someone is not-so-stellar at doing, someone else is a master.

Does this sound idealistic? Of course it does. But I believe every school year - or, let’s go crazy here, every DAY is a new beginning and another chance to refresh ourselves personally and professionally.

There will always be someone that you work with that you just do not like; it might be an administrator or the miserable guy down the hall who never has anything positive to say. But I think you have to believe that somewhere – deep down (maybe so deep it’s hard to find) – there is something in that person that makes them remarkable and has the ability to make a difference in a students’ life.

This Thursday, as you sit across the table from that odd relative bulldozing through their turkey and you’re wondering how you could possibly be related to them, remember, they’re one of the ones you got stuck luck, by chance, by divine intervention, however you choose to see it. 

And, next time you see that person in the hall that you would normally try to avoid talking to, smile and say ‘hi’ to them. Wonder, even if it’s for just a second, why they are where they are? What made them decide to teach?  Because they’re one of the ones you got stuck luck, by chance, or because the HR person was having a lapse in judgment the day they were hired...and make the best of it.

Gandhi said to “be the change you wish to see in the world”, so if we can try to change the way we see people, maybe others will give us a reason to see them differently.

*Tonya Thompson is my friend, my colleague, and a Library Media Specialist at Seckman High School in Imperial, MO.  


  1. Great post! You can't pick your family members or co-workers (for the most part). Great people emphasize the strengths of those around them and minimize their weaknesses and you do both.

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