Friday, June 01, 2012

A New Team

Teaching teams were announced yesterday. My team will change, and there's still one spot left to be filled.  I knew change was in the works, and I was anxious to hear about the new team.

I'll miss the fine work and intelligence my former teammates brought to our grade level group. I learned a lot from them.  I'm also looking forward to learning and working with the new team.

It is difficult learning about a new team at this time of year as there's litte time to wrap up a classroom and work with the old team, while also setting up orders and making time to connect with the new team.

Now that we rely on collaboration to a greater extent in schools, I believe that systems of team change have to alter to accommodate strong initial team building and efforts.  Similar to the start of inclusion when we changed many systems to accommodate a more inclusive teaching environment for all students, now schools have to change their systems to initiate, develop and build strong, collaborative teams that work well together for best effect.

How can a system do this?

First, systems have to define what team means to them?  Is the teaching team a grade-level team or a team that has a different definition?

Next, systems have to develop timely, fair protocols for change in order to give teams the time and support they need for team change.  That system might include the following steps:
  • A protocol is determined by administrators and teachers.
  • Teachers send in their requests for the next year, and administrators look at system-wide needs.
  • Team changes are made utilizing the determined protocol. The changes are announced on the same day to eliminate conjecture and stress.
  • Existing teams have time, perhaps in a PLC or grade level meeting to wrap up the year and make decisions related to the change. This could be a good time for leadership support.
  • New teams have time to meet, order materials and discuss the year ahead before the summer break--a time when teachers do a lot of planning and thinking about the next school year.
As I've mentioned before moving from a system of relative isolation (one teacher-one class) to a system of greater collaboration will take effort and innovation.  It won't just happen overnight.  Effective, focused protocols, communication and systems can serve to support a strong collaborative culture which we know holds promise for successful 21st century schools.

How has your school system changed protocols, processes and communication to support the move from isolation (one teacher-one class) to collaboration in schools (many teachers working together to serve many student needs)? What are the essential processes organizations use to foster optimal collaboration in the work place?  What are the expectations in a collaborative culture and how can educators and administrators help each other to meet those expectations?

Our systems' implementation of PLCs would be a good starting point for this effort.  Also re-looking at the yearly calendar of process and change may be a necessary step for schools moving towards a more collaborative culture since the systems of old were there to support a very different school culture.  Change in schools is coming because there is no way that we are going to be able to ignore the overwhelming research and promise related to technology and brain-friendly education that points to new structures for greater student engagement and success.  Those changes will occur with greater ease and effect if systems take the changes seriously and plan for the new collaborative cultures they hope to build.