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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

What Matters to Your Team?

As you think about the team you work or live with, what would you say matters?

Kindness Matters
At my school, the motto is "Kindness Matters." I believe that the school team embraces that motto and it matters to them.

This motto is visible in much of what happens at the school. Student presentations at assembly illustrate acts of kindness all the time. The educators who demonstrate the greatest leadership in the building focus often on kindness and kind acts. The principal teaches and promotes kindness regularly. Family members reach out to support students and educators in kind ways all the time.

Another important quality displayed in my school is team--our school supports team building and development regularly. The principal seeks to support strong grade-level teams. The administration further supports team by making time for Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), team meetings, and team-oriented professional learning. Recently our team model for shared teaching at fifth grade was supported as well. Family members support our teaching teams with positivity, and students are proud of their teaching teams.

Similarly we spend lots of time at school supporting student teams. We take the time to assemble positive teams of students for targeted teaching/learning events. We enlist students' ideas and efforts as we develop positive learning teams, and we also explicitly teach team skills and attitudes.

Our school community embraces perseverance too. Last year that was the focal point of an administrative walk-through and follow-up faculty meetings and grade level events. Increasingly the focus on perseverance is becoming a mainstay in our professional work too. Administrators, educators, and family members are embracing the notion that it's not one way or the other, but instead a series of steps that continue to move us closer and closer to current needs, expected/needed practice, and important growth and development.

Positive, Friendly Demeanor
Our community values a friendly, happy demeanor, and I agree, that's a positive demeanor for teaching children well. I came from a background where there was acceptance for a much larger demeanor range--it was okay in my realm to express all kinds of emotions all the time, but in our school that's not acceptable. I understand that and value it too.

By keeping a friendly, positive, and proactive demeanor, we model for students that we can remain kind friends and teammates and also disagree and debate at times. Our work as professionals in PLCs has developed our collective skill and positive growth mindset in this regard, and we're able to translate this ability to the positive team building and demeanor work we do with students as well.

Health and Wellness
Our collective community values health and wellness. Most educators are engaged in multiple healthy activities and lifestyles. The children we teach are similarly engaged in healthy living with good diets, lots of positive sports, arts, and recreation activities, and loving homes. At school, healthy food is the mainstay for the students, and increasingly this is true in the faculty room too. Our field studies also help children know how to stay healthy while exploring in the woods, participating in field day, and engaging in all kinds of creative exploration and play. In addition, local fire fighters, police, and other health professionals visit the school to promote healthy behavior and lifestyles.

Creativity and New Ideas
A local foundation provides funding for creativity and new ideas. This foundation is a source of inspiration for innovation. Last year many colleagues took advantage of this. One colleague, for example, wrote a grant to support a visiting Origami expert. The grant was funded, and the origami artist taught all students in the school about the intersection of origami, science, and math--it was an inspiring, creative event that propelled the students forward with lots of origami exploration and creativity for the rest of the year (and probably beyond that).

Professional Learning
Educators in my community are constantly engaged in professional learning. These efforts are supported by some funding, system-wide support for professional days, and inservice/summer study. More and more, and possibly due to the new evaluation system, educators where I work coach each other forward to new certifications, skill expertise, and leadership. This helps to build a dynamic learning/teaching environment.

Family and Friends
Our teaching community supports educators' need to recreate and support family and friends. When there are personal or family needs, the community generally is quick to support one another with needed time and other resources. Teachers in my system have the privilege of bringing their own children to our school system. This is a great advantage as it focuses educators' time on the system in which they teach rather than separating time and investment to two or more systems. By having our children in the system, we know that they are well educated, and we have the time and deep investment, to give the system more of what we can do and what we want to do to build a strong, innovative, and successful education system.

As I think about what matters in our teaching/learning community, it makes me proud to be a member of such a thoughtful, caring, and invested teaching/learning community.

As the new year takes hold, I'll think about ways I can contribute to the values above, and also support new practice in areas that may bring strength and positive diversity to our service too.

What matters in your teaching/learning community? How do you and your colleagues make those values explicit to new members of the community? Also, how do you contribute to those values? What values would you add to that list, and how would you promote new work that you feel will also positively forward your team and community?

I think it's important, at the start of any school year, to make the time as a whole school and as teaching/learning teams to acknowledge the collective values of the community and the ways that those values are visible in the work we do. It's also important to assess the value list to see if it is complete, and then to assess the priorities and efforts to make sure that the work we do mirrors the values we have as a teaching/learning team.