Saturday, November 18, 2017

Trustworthy Teaching Teams

I work with a trustworthy team, and as I work with this team, I am beginning to deepen what I can do to be a trustworthy team member and also foster the kind of trust that empowers what we can do together to support students, their families, and each other.

What does it take to be a trustworthy team?

Good Structure
A good structure for regular communication and meetings is important to building trust. Our team meets about 3-4 times a week regularly. Not all team members are present at all meetings, but in general we have a good showing of classroom teachers, special educators, guidance counselors, reading/math specialists/coaches, and administrators. At those meetings we share a lot of data, ideas, stories, research, and more to forward our practice. We also have a few shared communication vehicles including a grade-level website, online teaching sites, and Google docs where we share information regularly. This kind of structure is important to trustworthy teams.

Service Delivery Maps
The idea of mapping students' service delivery in collaborative ways with maps is one that I'm thinking a lot about these days. To map service delivery in advantageous ways demands good collaboration, communication, and trust. We have to be willing to nudge one another forward with regard to fidelity to the service delivery schedule, openness to make change, honesty about teaching/learning pedagogy, resources, and direction. We are exploring this idea more as a team and looking deeply at service delivery with the following questions:
  • How can we maximize meaningful time-on-task with students?
  • What group sizes are ideal for what teaching priorities? When is a one-to-one teaching/learning situation more powerful than a small group, and when does a small group or whole class learning focus reap better results?
  • How can we utilize online tools and platforms to maximize student learning and engagement?
  • When do we embed lessons related to growth mindset, learning-to-learn behaviors, cultural proficiency, and rationale to develop students' self efficacy?
  • How do we broach challenging problems of practice with one another in safe, trusting ways? Often it is when we disagree, that we collaboratively end up with the best new ideas and solutions.
  • What practices will we retire, and what new practices will we adopt to further student learning?
  • How can we help one another with our strengths, and turn to each other for help with regard to our challenges?
Team Building and Consultation
I think it's important for teams to look for opportunities to strengthen and build team via shared reading, idea share, attending conferences, and working with consultants. Three members of our team will be attending a teacher leadership conference in a week. This will give us a whole day to reflect on the strengths of our team as well as to look for ways to develop our team more.

Making Time to Know, Value, and Support Each Other Beyond Work Expectations
My brother recently sent me a New York Times article about the Google study that explores optimal work places including meeting potential and working with satisfaction. As we discussed the article, we clearly understood the importance of seeing our colleagues as more than workmates, but instead taking the time to know and value them as people. It's this basic and integral level of human dignity that is essential to any positive work environment.

Respect for and Acceptance of Vulnerability
We are all vulnerable because none of us bring all strengths to a team. With our strengths, we bring our challenges too. This is where respect for and acceptance of vulnerability are key. The more we understand ourselves, the more transparent and forthcoming we can be about our vulnerable areas, and the more we understand our teammates, the more accepting and supporting we can be about their vulnerabilities too. This is essential for good family teams as well as positive work teams.

Honest, Transparent Communication
Too often difficult-to-share thoughts, questions, and ideas are not communicated well. I think that almost everyone meets a challenge here, yet I've known individuals who have taught me a lot about honest, forthright, and caring communication that quickly deals with situations and sees the "promise in problems" with good result. Those individuals have been mentors to me in this regard. The more we can be honest with our colleagues in ways that matter, the better.

Letting Some Things Go
Teams of individuals will never always agree--that's a given, and with that in mind, often it's good to just let some things go. The route to good teamwork will be peppered with challenges and struggles from time to time. Some of those rough spots are worth the time and effort to figure out and make better, and others are simply passing annoyances that do go away and aren't worth the effort to deal with. Sometimes a little space and time goes a long way to solidifying team whether it be at home or at work.

In my years of teaching, I am finding that building trustworthy teams is an essential ingredient to doing the best possible work with and for students, families, and each other. The more we can commit to trust, the better. Do you agree?