By Angelos Bollas
Many things have been said about the importance of understanding our learners and how this can positively affect our teaching. What about understanding our colleagues? Will knowing our colleagues’ type – or our own type for that matter -affect our job? Having spent 9 years in various hallways, staff-rooms, FB groups, and Twitter discussions, I have come across some broad categories of coworkers, all of whom had and still have something to teach me. So, here is my list:
Newbie Type A:
This type of teacher currently has no experience and no training. The boss hired them because they will not claim a high (well, as high as a teacher can claim) hourly rate. They spend much time in the staff-room and they do everything they can to get on well with their coworkers. They often develop a special relationship with Helper Types (see: Helper Types).
Possible effect on others: They offer a great chance for other staff members to refresh their skills and revisit important issues of language learning and teaching. Usually, Newbie Type A teachers ask to observe lessons and are open to a wide range of suggestions. Having a Newbie Type A in the school provides opportunities for more experienced teachers to mentor and develop their teacher training skills.
Newbie Type B:
This type of teacher has just completed a teacher training course. Bless them. They are usually in a state of shock and view all classrooms as a whirlwind of chaos. They are trying to put into practice everything they have learnt in training. At the same time, though, they sometimes have a hard time asking for help as they have been trained and feel that there should be an answer somewhere and given enough effort, they will be able to find it.
Possible effect on others: usually, Newbie Type B teachers do not interact a lot with other teachers. In addition, a few Newbie Types B’s believe that the training course they went through, for whatever reason, is superior to other trainings. this special sub-type of Newbie Type B teachers might end up spending their time exclusively with Post-Newbie Type B Types. In general, when asked for help, Newbie Type B’s can often blossom, happy to share the information and ideas that they have worked so hard to learn.
Newbie Type C:
Very similar to Newbie Type Bs… and yet something is also very different. During their training course, they were taught (or somehow leaned) that sharing means caring; that real learning requires more than one person to be involved to happen.
Possible effect on others: extremely pleasant type to work with, sociable, caring, interested in their job, sharing good and bad experiences. Even more experienced teachers learn a lot from colleagues of this type, especially when it comes to using new tools or techniques. Bless them!
Experienced Type A, The Mentor
Experienced teachers who continuously share their experience and knowledge with anyone belong to this category. They are usually well networked and connected to a wide PLN (Professional Learning Network). They often jump at the chance to present at any local and/or global conference.
Possible effect on others: They are a pleasure to work with. Novice teachers use them as a point of reference. Experienced teachers rely on them for in-depth discussions, chances to reflect on their own teaching, and even the occasional simple teaching tip or trick. And senior staff members or DOSs appreciate them because as long as ‘The Mentor’ is around, there is one less colleague to worry about.
Experienced Type B, The Anti-Mentor:
Not completely the opposite of ‘The Mentor’. The Experienced Type B teacher is skilful and knowledgeable. Unfortunately, they are also extremely unapproachable. Typically, these colleagues started teaching as a means of earning a living until they could find a real job; yet, because of their natural skill set and abilities, they succeeded at teaching up until the point where it became their career, without ever realising that it was, in fact, a career. Anti-Mentors don’t share their experience because they do not realise that there is anything to share; they do not realise that teaching is a difficult profession and that they have valuable insights which could help make it less difficult for the people they work with.
Possible effect on others: This type does not often cause problems for others. They check in right on time, do their lessons, and go back home. However, occasionally an Anti-Mentor might feel some loss over having missed out on what they believe to have been their ‘real career’. This can occasionally lead to withdraw and a lack of desire to actively participate in trainings.
Experienced Type C, The Helper:
This is perhaps the rarest type of colleague, and has not been photographed in the wild since 1997 in a small school in Barcelona. The Helper shares many characteristics with Experienced Type A Teachers. The main difference, though, is that The Helper is always around (although rarely photographed). They work 12 hours per day – although the word work in this context means staying in the staff-room in a semi-on-duty mode, perpetually willing to cover for absent colleagues or do extra lessons and/or tutorials.
Possible effects on others: Other than spoiling the people lucky enough to work with them – who doesn’t want a colleague like this – they also spoil our bosses, too. It can get to the point where some school owners begin to ‘demand’ that all teachers have this always-on attitude.
The above list is not conclusive and, while a list of ‘types’, it is not written with the intent of promoting categorisation. Instead, I hope that it can help us take a moment think about or coworkers. They, like us, are teachers. They are not just the people with whom we share our staff-rooms, but the people with whom we share similar passions, questions, and insecurities. And I also hope that as we think about our coworkers, we can also begin to think about ourselves. Do we make the lives of our colleagues better or worse?
Feel free to share your own experiences with your colleagues, or even better, ask them to describe you as a colleague and think of what you can do to become a better colleague, person, and, ultimately, teacher.