How to Thrive in a Competitive Environment
There is more competition in school than ever before. And this competition affects everyone, including teachers. If you teach in a competitive environment you know that it has both positive and negative aspects. On one hand, a competitive environment makes you a stronger and more effective teacher. On the other hand, it adds stress to your day and robs you of the joy you find in educating children.
The key to thriving in a competitive workplace is confidence. People recognize confidence in others and respect them for it. Following are some ways to boost your confidence, enhance your teaching, and thrive in a competitive school.
If you look like a professional, people will treat you like one. Do not underestimate the importance of dressing well as a way to appear confident and prepared. Even if you don’t feel particularly confident, looking like you do can make you feel better about yourself and boost others’ opinions of you.
Prepare well for lessons and meetings. Good preparation is the key to solid teaching. If you are well prepared, it will show in your teaching ability, student test scores, and overall confidence.
Continue Your Education
This may not be possible or even necessary for many teachers, but if you have the time and money to invest in a higher degree, go for it! Most school systems offer pay raises for advanced degrees and if you teach in a very competitive environment, an advanced degree may raise others opinions of your teaching ability. You might be one that doesn’t care at all what others think of you, and if so, good for you. But, there may be times when employees with higher degrees get promotions and opportunities that those without an advanced degree may not.
Stay “Ahead of the Game"
Read professional literature and be familiar with the terms specific to your subject and grade level. With all the competition in school today, this is so important. You want your colleagues to know that you know your stuff! When you are at a faculty or grade level meeting, share a little of your knowledge. For instance, if your school has decided to focus on grouping for the semester, talk about homogenous and heterogeneous grouping and how they can contribute to your students’ success. Not only will you appear on top of things (which you are) but you will also learn valuable tools to use in your classroom.
Don't Compare Yourself to Others
If the teacher next door to you is always talking about the new strategy she implemented or how well her students did on their last test, but never stops to inquire about your day or compliment your teaching practices, simply listen, nod your head, and go back to your classroom. Don’t think that just because someone else is constantly talking about all the great activities in their room, that you are any less of a teacher. Look at what you are doing and be proud. Some people just brag a lot, while others don’t feel the need to do so.
Stay Away from Negative People
If there is a teacher at your school that seems to continually build herself up by bringing other teachers down, stay away! This may very well be that teacher I referred to in my last point that is always talking about all the amazing things going on in his or her class, but never stops to ask you about you. Don’t put up with it. Find friends in teachers who are going to build you up and you will enjoy teaching more than ever.
Find a Way to Relieve Stress
At some point, many teachers (myself included) allow teaching to almost completely take over their lives. This seems to happen even more often in competitive schools. It is only after people realize they have allowed their job to overtake their life that they begin to look at ways to regain balance. Don’t let that happen to you. From the very beginning, find ways to manage your stress and enjoy your life. (And don’t think about your students while you do it!) This could mean taking up a new hobby, exercising, or simply taking a nice long bath each night. Taking time for yourself renews you and makes you a better teacher, spouse, parent, and friend.
Competition in school can make you a stronger teacher, if you handle it correctly. Finding ways to achieve balance and taking pride in your accomplishments can make teaching in the most competitive of environments pleasant and help you to become a strong educator.