Functional Dysfunction: Teacher Teams

We humans are difficult creatures. As a lifelong human and curmudgeon, there should be little surprise in me saying that. Still, despite my cynicism, I enjoy people. People are my favorite humans, and I have come to face the brutal fact that life requires being around other people. As a teacher, you face the same problem. You have to be around people every day. Some of those people are teachers just like you. Or teachers completely different from you. For example, you might spend weeks drowning in existential angst before the date of a vital standardized test for your students. Meanwhile, your fellow fourth-grade teacher spends those weeks unencumbered by angst and happy as a lark in a springtime sky. But what about when you need to work with a teacher team? It can be very hard to shed your squeamishness about interacting with other human beings when you become part of a teacher team.

While I can’t help you get over your discomfort around other people, I can offer a few tips for getting the most out of teams.

  • Make sure your team has a well-defined goal in mind for any task. Don’t spin your wheels. Your teaching and prep time is precious. Be efficient. Spell out methods for achieving individual and group tasks.

  • Everyone needs a leader. And everyone needs to be a leader. Usually, even the simplest task requires a number of people to do the work. Therefore, there’s potential for multiple leaders. Nevertheless, leadership roles should rotate through the group and leadership should be respected as well as earned.

  • Be hard-nosed. Establish a team in which everyone’s position and opinion is respected, but do not shy away from conflict. Conflict approached in an atmosphere of common respect yields viable resolution and clears the path for real, honest work to be done.

  • Each team member’s voice must be heard. Each team member is accountable. Make sure everyone speaks up and make sure everyone does their fair share. Remember, the overall goal is not the team’s success, but the students’ success.

If you have other ideas about what makes teacher teams work their best, please share them in the comments. Of course, an anonymous anecdote about what made a teacher team fail is also appreciated. Either way, we’ll learn something new.

2 thoughts on “Functional Dysfunction: Teacher Teams

  1. “Make sure everyone speaks up…”
    I find that the more aggressive, natural leaders need to be calmed down a bit giving others a “safe” environment” to be heard. Teams need to work on this end of things too.

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