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.