Teaching teams are wonderful. They offer an opportunity for teachers to collaborate, share, problem-solve, and create friendships that extend beyond the school building.
That’s the theory, anyway. They can also be dysfunctional, negative, ineffective, and destructive. The truth is that great teaching teams just don’t happen — they must be intentionally created and nurtured.
Whether you are returning to your old team, joining a new one, or welcoming a new member, keep in mind the following tips that will help your team run like a well-oiled machine!
1. Set the ground rules
You would never start teaching without going over the rules and expectations for your students — the same goes for your team. Take time to set up what your group will and won’t be.
- Will “what happens in the team meetings, stay in the team meetings”? Make sure this is understood completely by all members!
- Should your team meetings have an agenda and who should set that?
- If you don’t have a team leader as assigned by your administration, you probably want one. Who should it be?
- What does each person expect from the team?
2. Set policies
- If you don’t already have school-wide policies for weighting grades, homework, etc., take time to set them. (I have a freebie that provides an editable teacher booklet — perfect for setting your policies and procedures. You can grab it here: Back to School Freebie)
- Create a document that outlines what your policies are. This is helpful to students, parents, and the administration. It also protects your integrity as a professional.
3. Establish goals
- Do you want to create cross-curricular activities this year? Set up a digital classroom? Focus on a particular skills like writing or reading nonfiction? As a team, decide on what you can do to create new challenges and learning opportunities for your students.
- Take time at the start of the year, semester, or grading period to set goals — decide what special events are coming up that you want to plan for or what administrative requirements you need to address.
4. Build your team
- You know how you’ve had a classroom of students that really jells? Work to create that with your teaching team.
- Consider having a social event together outside of school — have a potluck, go to a movie, or set up a bowling night. Include spouses!
- Get to know your teammates. Talk about other things besides school — find out about your teammates hobbies, family, and background.
5. Communication is Key
- Not only do you need to communicate effectively with your team, you also need to keep your administrators in your communication loop. How will you do that? What do they need to know?
- Keep notes. It is helpful to write down the results of the meeting, what the next steps will be, and who is going to do what. You can follow up with email.
- Stay flexible — if something isn’t working, communicate that with your team.
- Keep your team up-to-date with issues that may impact their schedule or plans. A team test/project calendar is helpful in planning when student tests and projects are due.
6. Be supportive
- Share resources, time, and ideas.
- If possible, have other team members participate in parent conferences. This is especially helpful for new teachers.
- Create a special way to honor each other — birthday lunches, secret Santa, or a monthly lunch together if you can.
- If you have a mix of new and seasoned teachers, we aware of this! Support the new teachers.
7. Be a team player!
- A teaching team doesn’t mean that one teacher will gallop off on his or her own and be a Lone Teacher! As difficult as it can be, the goal of a teaching team is to work as a team!
- Respect the team meetings. This is not the time to vent or complain. If there is a set agenda for the meeting, respect and focus on what your team needs to accomplish.
- Follow the guidelines your team has decided are important. For example, if your team has decided that students cannot chew gum or have their cell phones out during class, and you allow that behavior in your classroom, you are undermining your fellow teachers. Even if you don’t agree with a policy, you need to either follow the team’s decisions or work with your team to change it.
- Don’t gossip about other members of your team. That can quickly cause a faction within the team. Address problems privately with a teacher you may have disagreements with.
Keep these tips in mind as you work with your team — you’ll be off to a great start!
Have any suggestions for fellow teachers on how to create a dream team? Add to the discussion with a comment below!