Friends make a difference

  • Education
  • Sunday, 16 Jan 2005


IT’S a new year. You’re probably back at work, with your new timetable, your new record book and your new classes. What has changed? Have any of your colleagues left upon getting a transfer? Has anyone been promoted? Moved up or out?  

Has anyone new come into your school? Are you having a new boss?  

Hopefully, you are teaching the subject and classes you want. Better still, your old gang of friends are still intact. 

Have you yourself been promoted? Or upgraded to a new pay scale?  

Ah yes, January is here and it is always a month for facing up to change and being very, very busy. So much to do and so much paperwork to be completed – revised syllabi, lesson plans, new class registers, fees receipts, work schemes, blueprints, etc. 

Yes, you name it, we have to do it.  

But, as they say, and whether you like it or not, change is that one constant we have to live with at all times. And, I think, as you forge ahead into the new year, some of the most important things you are going to have to consider are: who’s with you, who are you working with and w ho’s going to make it tough for you? 

Do you feel empowered enough to do what you know best? Do you feel experienced and confident enough to execute your work independently? Is someone going to be breathing down your neck all the time?  

Are you happy 

As you examine the changes, accept and adjust to them, you are also going to have to answer this vital question – so, are you happy? 

If you need some direction, perhaps the following will help you. In the November issue of Readers Digest, I read an article written by Nancy Coveney. She talks about none other than “what matters at work”. According to her, a big pay packet isn’t necessarily the ticket to happiness. 

Quoting a Gallup poll, she ranks “having a best friend at work” as one of the parameters people look at to determine if they’re happy working where they are. Another satisfaction factor is “knowing what’s expected of me” and “having the materials and equipment I need”.  

How about promotion? Is that important? Well, according to Coveney, “rank and title are actually more important than pay in determining how respected employees feel”. Next on the list is (and, oh do I so agree with it!) a “flexible schedule”.  

So, there you have it. Start by asking yourself whether you have the support of good friends. I know of many teachers who don’t care to ask for a transfer out from a particular school simply because they’re so happy with who their buddies are at school. A good friend is a good friend. Period. And, having one at work makes the difference.  

Frankly, I have realised this time and time again and in every school I have been posted to. I need a friend at school. It matters to me and to many a teacher like me that we have someone at work with whom we can gripe and whine, share and compare, laugh and cry, unwind and relax with.  

No matter how huge my responsibilities or how broad, having some good friends to walk the talk with me makes it all the more bearable, and sometimes, a whole load of fun too. The question is not about competency or the ability to handle a particular responsibility.  

Bonding with staff 

The team you work with matters. The acronym T.E.A.M. standing for “Together Everyone Achieves More” is certainly true when you’re with people with whom you can bond with, emotionally and intellectually. 

I think that having an understanding colleague to talk to can really make up for all the stressful stuff a teacher faces in a day. I know what I am talking about because I’ve been to several schools. By virtue of my husband’s job, I’m frequently on the move. School after school I’ve been to and the first thing I look for is a friendly face. A chum. A friend. Or a gang of them to call my own.  

Once I have that, all else falls into place. No matter who’s my boss or how his perangai(attitude) is, no matter how rowdy my students are and no matter how low they fall on the intellectual scale, no matter the amount of paperwork I have to do, I know I am competent enough to still sail the rough seas. All I ask is that I have colleagues (even if it’s just one or two) with whom I can share not only a cup of coffee with but the day’s rough tumbles. You know – a person I can talk to. A pal I can confide in.  

Of course, I think we’re all mature enough to know that not all colleagues can be trusted. We all know only too well of those who flash you a radiant smile even as they stab you in the back. But then, I’m talking not of this lot. I’m talking of that one true friend who’s always beside you, with you, and supports you sincerely.  


As for flexibility at work, having clear direction and adequate resources – they make the job easier. However, sometimes, these do not fall into place nor are they under our realm of control. I’ve worked in a rural school where I’ve had to improvise due to lack of equipment but I still thrived because the principal I had was a wonderful person who trusted me, entrusted me and believed in giving me free reign.  

I enjoyed working for him. He did not shackle me down with a whole lot of “you can’t do this and that”. I enjoyed working in his school. Because I lived the furthest from the school and had to travel far, he let me go off early when I did not have a last period. He understood when it rained so heavily and the road was too slushy for me to make a safe drive to school. 

He knew I would make up for lost time on the days that I could make it to school. Under a certain set of given circumstances, flexibility yields higher productivity. And I say this again – I enjoyed working for him.  

Life for a teacher is not a matter of clocking in at a set time and clocking out at another. Life is about being with the right people and knowing the right ones. As for bosses, life for them should also be about working with and knowing their people. 

Knowing what they can do and what they can’t. Knowing who can be empowered and who still needs a clear set of rules. Knowing who needs to be reined in and who can be given the freedom to act. Knowing who’s clear about what’s to be done and who needs training and guidance.  

The best bosses I have worked for understood and appreciated the gift of flexibility. I also noted that, if in a school, I had a good friend, I forgot the worst of that school. And the schools I have been happiest working in have had them all. Good friends, good bosses and a flexible schedule.  

Do you like going to school because you look forward to being with those colleagues whom you can call friends? I certainly hope so. Happy New Year! 

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