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Welcome to the Family!

My husband, Mike, and I are from very different backgrounds. I’m Texan and he’s Minnesotan, and while I grew up vacationing on planes and in hotels, his family vacationed in tents and campers. Before we were married, we went on a trip with Mike’s parents and stayed in their travel trailer. I was still working hard to make a good first impression—fixing my hair and makeup first thing each morning, being extra polite, and trying to be helpful. I didn’t know anything about campers, so I used the weekend to watch the routines and basically tried to stay out of the way.

When the weekend was coming to an end, there was a lot of packing to get ready for the trip home. I sat inside the trailer watching all the action through the windows since I had no idea how to help. Mike took a break to come sit with me, his back to the window while I watched his dad close up the awning that provided shade over the door. At some point, Mike’s dad started making funny faces in the window. Because he was generally a silly guy, I let it go for a few seconds and then finally gestured to Mike to turn around and look at his dad. He smiled and then quickly panicked and ran outside. You see, his dad wasn’t making funny faces in the window. His hand was caught in the awning and he couldn’t get it out. His silly face was actually a face of pain. I didn’t know my soon to be father-in-law well enough to know what was funny and what was a plea for help.
I spent the rest of the drive home apologizing and trying to find a way to make amends. For his part, Mike’s dad was an incredibly good sport and basically welcomed me to the family. Over time, I got increasingly more comfortable with my new extended family. They frequently saw me without makeup and with my hair in a ponytail. I became fair game for pranks and joined in on the private family jokes, including the story of the hand caught in the awning.
How are you and the science teachers you lead like a new family? During the meetings and professional development sessions at the beginning of the year, everyone is on their best behavior, checking out those who are starting their first year and those who are returning. There are likely a few tight-knit groups with their own private jokes or unwritten rules, but through it all, you, your teachers, the principals, and especially the students make up a family that is going to be spending the next several months working together to get to the same destination. To make the trip more enjoyable, here are a few suggestions.
Let teachers get to know the real you
Share a few personal stories with your science teachers. What do you do for fun when you’re not on the job? If you can’t think of anything you do for fun, then get busy and find something! You may even have your own entertaining vacation stories.
Find ways to help teachers connect
You can find many ideas online for team building, but you could start with something as simple as having groups generate a list of the things they have in common. Yes, you can have a functional work group with those you don’t know well, but you can have an amazing work group if we see yourselves as team members with a shared goal.
Find a way to get teachers to laugh
There’s just no better way to cut the tension and make connections than to share a laugh. So think about incorporating some movie clips, a little music, a game, or perhaps even a lame joke to spice up teacher training days.
With all of the time we spend on the job, we sometimes spend more time with our work family than we do with our home family. Thankfully, we’re not stuck in the tight quarters of a travel trailer, but the journey is so much more fun and productive when we are more than just coworkers.
And just to be on the safe side, make sure those around you know the difference between your happy face and your panic face. I’m guessing they’ll see both before the year’s end.
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