Collaborative Work Teams – Opportunity or Burden?

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Sharon Rendon, Coaching Coordinator

You may be starting back to school thinking about how you will be supporting your students to work as effective study teams, however, I would like to encourage you to also think about how you are going to work in a collaborative team with your colleagues. Sometimes in school settings working in a collaborative community such as a professional learning community can be challenging and very worthwhile all at the same time. Collaboration does not occur simply by a mandate from the administration, but with a group of colleagues committed to improving the educational experience for all students. “This collaboration requires conversation, reflection, adaptation, experimentation and personal accountability for results.” (Kanold & Larson, xiii)

Successful and effective teams identify what they are working on, why they are working together (their mission and the vision), and how they will work together. Steven Covey defines trust as the feeling of confidence in one another’s character, integrity, and competence, or capabilities.  One of the most critical components of effective teams is the culture of trust that the team develops. While working as a team in a school environment, difficult and hard conversations are going to arise. Developing trust is critical so your team can have those meaningful and sometimes difficult conversations. “Trust is not built in a day, we can lay bricks every hour.” (Aguilar, 42)

In her book, The Art of Coaching Teams, Elena Aguilar describes some tangible actions the members of teams can take to help trust develop. Structures can be put in place to help trust develop and foster healthy relationships on which trust is built. These ideas will help build, maintain, repair, and strengthen trust with your colleagues and teammates.

  • Trust begins by knowing yourself and doing some reflection of who you are and who your team needs you to be. Sometimes that person may be the provider of ideas, sometimes the leader, other times the listener, and yes maybe even the peacemaker at times. Be mindful of yourself and what your team needs from you.
  • Know each other more than just the answers on the human bingo card. Be willing to be somewhat vulnerable with each other so you can build relationships and demonstrate your character. Challenge each other to deepen your relationship each time you meet.
  • Honor your team’s commitments. Make shared agreements, write them down, and then hold yourselves to keep those agreements. It is crucial that every member honors the agreements you make as a team. When developing these norms or agreements, have a conversation about how your team will address the issue when an agreement is broken.
  • Have clarity on the purpose of the team’s work. Have a transparent agenda for each time the team gathers to work and try your best to accomplish that agenda. Do not allow issues or other problems to sidetrack the time you have set aside for an agenda.
  • Celebrate successes. Far too often educators do not take the time to acknowledge and celebrate all the great things that go on in a school setting. End weekly meetings with a time of celebration, even if they are small.

As you are beginning your school year, setting up the routines and procedures in your classrooms, remember to also give attention to the teams you are a part of with your colleagues. Having effective teams of adults in a school setting is just as important as having effective study teams of students in classrooms. Make it your goal to “create a beloved community which will require a qualitative change in your souls as well as a quantitative change in your lives,” – Dr. Martin Luther King.


Aguilar, E., The Art of Coaching Teams. San Francisco, CA. Jossey-Bass. 2016.

Kanold, T. & Larson, M., Common Core Mathematics in a PLC at Work: Leader’s Guide. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree. 2012.

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Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.