How to Create Meaningful and Rewarding Relationships with Colleagues

How to Create Meaningful and Rewarding Relationships with Colleagues

A guiding principle of Responsive Classroom is “How we work together as adults to create a safe, joyful, and inclusive school environment is as important as our individual contribution or competence.” In order to create meaningful and lasting change in schools, we must have good working relationships with our co-teachers that allow us to build a safe environment for ourselves and our students. In doing so, we build trust, take risks by trying something new, and know that positive intentions will be the point-of-view taken for all actions and communication.Co-teachers

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and educators such as Maslow, Adler, Dreikurs, and Glasser discussed how three needs drive human behavior after physical and physiological needs are met: belonging, significance, and fun. In addressing these three needs for one another, we can forge a strong bond with our teaching partners that yields a powerful result for the students in the classroom.


A strong sense of belonging means that individuals feel known, cared for, supported, and part of a shared identity. To help meet this need with your co-teacher for the year, consider the following:

  • Set norms. Forming team norms early on ensures team success and can shape the culture of the team in positive ways.
  • Learn about one another on a personal level. Spending time talking to your partner and asking about social and academic topics will help you know more about their strengths and interests.
  • Identify similarities. Looking for ways that your differences are grounded in bigger concepts on which you agree (for example, different teaching styles might be based on similar pedagogy) will help increase your sense of being a unit.

When we are valued for our strengths, interests, and talents, our need for significance is being met. In order for this to occur, we must feel like we are making a contribution to the team. There are several ways you and your co-teacher can do this for each other:

  • Acknowledge one another’s contributions. Create structures for acknowledgment and make it a point to utilize them regularly. Selecting the method (leave a note, set aside time to talk, use an app you regularly communicate through) and the schedule you’ll follow (once a day) will get you into the habit of looking for, and finding positive contributions.
  • Respect the position. Whether the co-teacher is an individual that is a special education liaison or you job-share, all co-teachers bring unique skills and talents to the position. Honor and recognize these.
  • Highlight uniqueness. Making time to share with the students and one another what your strengths, talents, and interests are will allow you and your co-teacher an opportunity to create a positive impact on others.

Activities that are fun may include laughter and smiles or they may be an engaging activity that has the group focused, determined, and ready to persevere. A balance of both is important to building a positive connection with your co-teacher. Here are some ways to incorporate fun into your new relationship:

  • Celebrate growth together. Taking time to pause and reflect on how you have grown, both individually and as a unit, is important to ensuring that your co-teacher feels involved and recognized.
  • Start light. There are many fun ways you can learn about one another. Consider finding a communication-style quiz and sharing your results with your co-teacher to talk about how to best talk with one another. Starting with a quiz may feel light at first, and it can open the door for having difficult conversations later.


For us to meet these needs for our co-teacher, we must ensure that they are met for ourselves as well. In taking time to build a powerful relationship with our colleagues, we create the conditions for students to have their needs of belonging, significance, and fun met. By addressing these needs in our co-teaching experience, we refine our craft of teaching. And, in meeting these needs that drive human behavior, we establish positive learning communities where high-quality education is provided to every student, every day.

Tags: Building Classroom Community, Empathy, Professional Community