I am thinking: 1) a scenario followed by an overview of teaming, ...where we are now; 2) how "teaming" relates to the three This We Believe topics; and then.... where we want to go; and 3) recommendations for teachers, team leaders, and administrators.... how to get there Teaming: What does it take? Years ago I was part of a team whose team leader openly ostracized other team members. The leader was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic; yet she disagreed with several members whenever a view was questioned or their view was different. Sarcasm or rolling of the eyes was a common feature between the team leader and another teacher on the team. It was a very uncomfortable setting. I have always been surprised to find team leaders who are not advocates for all the members of their team. (Or start with)… In 2008, George published a concern that middle school teams were disappearing from middle schools in Florida. Tonso, Jung, and Colombo (2006) shared the impact of a ‘restructured’ school that eliminated teams. A study by McKewin and Greene (2009) examined…. And found that …. (I have asked Ken to send me this study… it is a survey of principals from across the US and gives % of schools that have middle school components; I will send it to you when I get it) When it came time to come up with a topic for my dissertation, I chose to look at characteristics of more and less effective teams. In a district that had converted 18 junior high schools to middle schools, I looked at two years worth of team documents to identify more and less effective teams. From the baseline data I chose five schools to live in and worked with each principal who verified my choices of a more and less effective teams in each school. From there, I interviewed members of each of the teams, and observed their team meetings to identify specific characteristics of teams that appear to be more and less effective. I lived in their world during the spring and compiled the two years worth of documents as well as interview and observation notes to identify what appeared to be more and less effective teams. This is what I found. I can shrink this to 3 lines instead of 3 paragraphs and wonder if it is too old… although the findings haven’t changed much….First, effective teams had strong leaders and at least two or more members who were not only familiar with middle school concepts, but who also believed in the value and importance of working as a team. The team leaders supported and encouraged each member of the team and put students first. The leadership of the more effective teams included people who were organized, passionate about middle school children, knowledgeable about middle school concepts, and willing to listen and keep the team on task. A second characteristic of effective teams related to the interpersonal skills that team members displayed. Teachers who worked on effective teams communicated with one another respectfully. The topics of communication included students, their parents, and curriculum. Teachers on effective teams worked collaboratively. There was a mutual willingness to share responsibilities associated with the team. Teachers appeared to have a positive view of their students and one another. If a teacher was not feeling well, or was experiencing a stressful situation outside of school, team members encouraged and looked after them. Teachers may have disagreed with one another, but the atmosphere of the disagreements was about program or children; it was not personal. A third characteristic that effective teams displayed was organization. Teachers on effective teams appeared to have a system for getting through business, focusing on children, and were systematic in their problem solving strategies. Effective teams had common procedures for their children to follow; rituals and routines were designed and agreed upon by the team members. There were always agendas at team meetings and team meetings were planned and prompt. Teachers were focused on the tasks at hand and were not engaged in grading, texting, or planning during team meetings. Teachers worked together to create structures that were conducive to helping students learn organizational skills. During team meetings the focus was on problem solving and planning activities, events, and strategies for helping students become successful. It was fascinating to work with teams of teachers who were able to put personal differences aside, focus on the needs of students, watch their support, respect, and enthusiasm for one another as it played out in team meetings. These teams were intentional in their planning that included multiple layers of support for their students. Based on this study, it appeared that teachers who felt valued by the leadership, held common vision of middle school concepts, and who worked to serve children made a difference in the lives of children. Since those early years of my research, I have participated on teams that were developing and I have worked on teams that were stagnant. Last year I worked in a brand new K-8 school as a 6th grade math teacher on a team. We were intentional in our efforts to establish common rituals and routines, common celebrations. We systematically developed plans for managing children as a team and met together with parents. We attempted best practices of intramurals, curriculum enrichment, exploratories, and advisory. At the end of the year I asked members to reflect on our strengths as a team. We felt that our greatest strengths were communication, collaboration, trust, and risk taking. These characteristics are identified in relation to effective business organizations (Mahanty, Yasmi, Guernier, Ukkerman, & Nass, 2009; Sumner, 2006) as well as middle school teams (Bell, 1990; Bock & Joseph, 2000; Conley, Fauske, & Pounder, 2004; Mills & Pollack, 1993; ). We communicated with the children, with their parents, with the guidance counselor and with one another constantly. We talked about our students all the time: before school, during our common planning period, at lunch, and after school. Together we discovered that giving students an opportunity to ‘cool down’ when they were upset helped them return to class successfully. Together we determined which students needed to be separated from others, and what made some of our students ‘tick’. We talked about the struggles our students had at home, socially, emotionally, and intellectually, and we worked together to support them and one another on our journey. We found that different students responded to different feedback. Together, we supported our children and one another. Underneath everything we did was a layer of trust and risk taking. At the very beginning of the year we talked about our past experiences and what we had to offer to our team. Two members were beginning licensed teachers, one an alternative certification teacher, and one a former police officer. We realized that we had different strengths and as we worked together, we encouraged one another and supported each other’s efforts. This did not mean that we always agreed on what to do; but we were always willing to take risks when it came time to figure out what would be best for our students. When things went well, we celebrated; when things did not go well, we talked about what could be adjusted regarding our schedules or our expectations. As a member of this brand new team, we lived what it means to work as a community of teachers. Our views fell right in line with what the National Middle School Association advocates regarding teaming. As you begin your journey, consider the following: you have a role to play in helping to make a team productive and positive. How This We Believe (2009) speaks to “teaming”. Educators value young adolescents and are prepared to teach them; A team refers to a group of people who serve a group of students. Thus the team consists first of students who must learn to work together and alone. As team members we must include the students in decision making whenever we can. Bock and Joseph (2000) contend that students who participate in their own development are more successful. Second, the team consists of teachers who must work with one another to help students reach their potential. Teachers must be willing to combine their strengths, their knowledge, their ideas, and their concerns to meet the needs of students. Third, principals and support personnel must work with districts to create professional development experiences for teachers to meet the needs of their students. Leaders are committed to and knowledgeable about this age group, educational research, and best practices; and A third element of teams is leadership. Common views of leaders include administrators and support personnel who work with teachers to schedule experiences, problem-solve, and allocate resources that are used to meet the needs of children. Gunn and King (2003) describe a study in which the value and importance of leadership community plans contributes to student success. A team leader is one of the most valuable members of the team; he or she must be the initial advocate for team members and must work tirelessly with administrators to collaborate and communicate expectations. Chrispeels and Martin (2002) discuss the value and importance of having leadership teams that are trained and an integral part of the decision making process for schools. Within the team, all members must be committed to serving the team and working with one another. Leaders in this sense are not just ‘team leaders’ and ‘principals. Leadership, on a high functioning team, consists of members who utilize their strengths for the good of the team. Parents should also be considered as “leaders” of the team. We know that when parents are involved, students perform better. Professional development at all levels must include parents. Comprehensive guidance and support services meet the needs of young adolescents. When middle schools were first conceived, the concept of the team focused heavily on the teachers’ role (Alexander, 1963). Today the team is perceived in a more inclusive light including children, teachers, administration, parents, and partnerships with businesses and universities. School-wide/district-wide ‘safety nets’ that support children, full-service schools, schools that provide after school opportunities for children, schools that work closely with business partners who serve as tutors and mentors are best used when team members are part of the planning There are specific traits associated with middle school teams. The first trait is that of advocate. We as teachers must advocate for our students. In addition, we must advocate for one another, administrators, and parents. In order for teams to be effective there has to be a commitment of the members to work and plan together. Discussions of student work, student behavior, and student challenges coupled with action research, opportunities to develop professionally and share strategies can increase productivity of teams. Teachers who share common procedures, strategies, rituals, and routines help build a learning community that provides safety, structured high expectations and safety nets to meet the needs of children. Second, a characteristic of a team is that members collaborate with one another. When colleagues, parents, administrators and students agree to work together to promote success for middle grade students, there is the potential to develop a powerful, successful team. Currently, middle school curriculum includes the notion of ‘student ownership’ including collaborative planning of interdisciplinary units, and inquiry based projects, student led conferences, all of which highlight a shift from teachers as facilitators to teachers and students as communicators. In This We Believe (2009) authors express “teachers participate actively in learning activities rather than just being observers of students at work. Such collaboration leads to increased achievement, demonstrates democratic processes and further meaningful student teacher relationships” (p. 67). Members of a team must have a shared vision that includes advocacy, collaboration and communication. The vision and mission of a middle school is used to make curriculum decisions, and provides a framework for problem solving. Team members must have knowledge of young adolescents, middle school concepts, best practices and assessment strategies, and knowledge of leadership qualities. Leaders of middle level students must be risk takers. In successful middle schools leadership teams meet regularly. School Improvement Teams gather information, problem solve, disseminate information and act as visionaries or dreamers of possibilities. This We Believe (2009) suggests that teachers must possess soft skills including “the way adults treat each other, set priorities, establish policies, and make decisions” (p. 30). While the focus of middle school has always been on the development and achievement of young adolescents, effective teams have the power to provide teachers, parents, and administrators with opportunities to work together and enhance the development of children. The value of collegiality can impact morale and foster inspiration and creativity. “Our message is for schools to be academically excellent, developmentally responsive, and socially equitable for every young adolescent” (NMSA, 2009, p. 66). The authors of This We Believe lay out a charge for middle school team members to be advocates, to be able to communicate, collaborate, and be committed to the development of young adolescents. Choice theory author, Glasser ( 1988) suggests that productivity happens when individuals’ needs are met including survival, love and belonging, freedom, power, and fun. Together these elements provide team members with an overview of how a group develops and what is necessary for individuals to flourish. Teaming: What does it take? The idea is for a team to come together, perform its activity (be it on a project or long-term basis) and then dissolve with the component parts able to reform into new teams ready to face new challenges. Apart from a core (Wellington and Foster, 2009, p.73). What is a team? You’ll often meet a manager who will talk about his or her ‘team’ when in reality, what they are referring to is a group of individuals whose commonality of purpose is simply to prevent themselves being overwhelmed by their workload. In their book ‘The Wisdom of Teams’, Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith define teams as: L Working towards a common goal L Dependant on others within the team L Having agreed a common approach L Having complementary knowledge and skills L Having fewer than 20 members E ( The 20th century team worker was considered a “specialist” who performed his/her job well. In the 21 st century “team” people work together to solve problems, which could redefine how a “team of teachers” should address the needs of children … “where ) one another, check each other’s work and have a positive impact on quality. Motivation becomes higher than that of socially isolated individuals on the traditional production line.(p. 74) Different types of teams… p. 7 p.75 wellington & foster, 2009 I believe the most effective teams plan together, use problem-solving strategies together and support one another. Our team view of communication, collaboration, trust and risk taking are outcomes that are based on these three elements. In my view these are three different things and thus a team’s effectiveness may depend on how tightly these three elements are woven. (Planning, Problem Solving and Support) Problem •Know your students; •Know your content; Solving •Sharing the same vision •Having "one voice" •Plan rituals, routines, rewards; •How will you communicate with •Looking out for one another. •Meet regularly to talk about parents? •Bad days, good days and the kids, content, and activities. •How will you address the energy you bring to the team. deficiencies of your students? •How will you work together to reinforce the skills children need? Planning Support The theoretical framework that I believe supports highly effective teams is Choice Theory. Choice Theory, by William Glasser (1988), involves the interaction of the following elements: Survival, Love and Belonging, Freedom, Power, and Fun. Glasser suggests that in our lives we are most satisfied when these needs are met. Erwin (2002) has taken Glasser’s theory and describes activities that teachers can use to manage children. Survival Power Freedom Effective Teams Love and Fun Belonging The most important thing a teacher can do is support one her team mates as an interconnected team member and work to assess the students and present material to them. These two elements focus on survival (as a team consider setting up rituals and routines) and love and belonging (respect for team mates). Initially, I found that team members who are new to teaming may not be able to integrate their lessons as suggested in exemplary middle schools. However, teachers can focus on common literacy themes such as “main idea” or “compare and contrast” strategies. Last year when I was on the new team, we did not complete our first interdisciplinary unit until March. I recommend starting each day by greeting one another. I was teaching at a middle school and started talking to my team mate, Connie. Before I finished my second sentence about what was on my mind, I heard her saying, “Good morning.” She reminded me that we are first colleagues and second teachers. Part of belonging is being recognized. Take notice of one another. Just like our students, we have no way of knowing everything that is going on with one another and we are better teachers when we are loved. The notion of Power, as described by Glasser refers to the autonomy team members feel. Who is in “control” and who is being controlled are often elements that permeate schools and teams. The middle school team usually has a ‘team leader’ but teachers must realize that these leaders are not necessarily the sole decision makers. They are the liaisons to the team and willingly help set up the communication process. Erwin (2002) addresses “Power Within”. The “within” suggests that we as individuals have control of our own lives, what we do and how we choose to run our lives. We have a responsibility to our students to prepare lessons that are integrated, interactive, and thought-provoking. We must work tirelessly to create an environment that is rigorous and relevant to the lives of children. The more prepared we are as teachers the more likely we are to experience that power within. A second type of power is ‘Power With’ or how teachers choose to work as part of a team. Perhaps teachers have worked on a team in which they carried the load. It is difficult to work on a team when others do not share a common vision or work ethic. Very often I believe this is a breakdown that leads to conflict and discontent. Cassidy (2007) suggests that conflict is inevitable, thus recognizing conflict and addressing problems will aide team productivity. As a team member, a goal should be to work together to support one another and to support the children. The bottom line of power, according to Glasser, is recognition. Therefore, when creating a middle school team, teachers should think about the strengths they bring to one another and to share ideas that are successful. Supporting one another, planning together and problem solving can help teams develop their power. Freedom is Glasser’s fourth element of Choice Theory. He describes Freedom From and Freedom To. Freedom from ridicule and condescension is necessary for a group of people to work together. I was working on a team in which I asked for help with advisor-advisee activities. It was my first time working in a ‘real middle school’. The home economics teacher on our team said, ‘you have your master’s in middle school; I thought you would already know how to do that.’ I felt so foolish. After the meeting, a team member came to me and shared ideas with me. We all get frustrated and may make accusations or interpret actions wrongly. This is very unhealthy and even more unhealthy if we don’t do anything about it. I have had to apologize to colleagues for things I have said. One of our most important tools is to recognize when we have posed a threat to our colleagues or our children. A second element of “freedom” is the freedom to create and contribute. Research on collaboration suggests that those who find people to work with are more satisfied and more productive (Dalal, Skeete, Yeo, Lucas, Rosenthal , 2009). When colleagues come up with an idea and implement it, and then analyze the impact, they are working towards Glasser’s Freedom element. Teams can exercise their freedom to collaborate regarding procedures and routines. Decision making can be teamed with problem solving to create positive work places for teachers and students. The interaction of support for one another, planning and problem solving are strengthened when a team considers the impact of freedom. The fifth, and probably the golden thread that ties a team together, is fun. A team that ‘plays together’ has potentially high levels of productivity. The notion of ‘creativity’ within an organization has been shown to be related to ‘fun’ (McCrea & Hughes, 2004). Laughter and care, looking at the bright side of life, can keep a team functioning. We started the year bringing lunch in. One of our team members shared this idea with us as a way to support one another. Later in the year we found that contributing $5.00 to share pizza worked just as well. One team member would order pizza on line and when our lunch break came, there it was… hot pizza. This was a great way to celebrate Fridays once a month. Fun can be spontaneous or planned. The use of spirit boosters, fun Fridays, pick-me-ups, and finding support for one another must be intentional. If you hear of good things, tell the colleague. We must advocate for one another. Teaching is hard. It is emotionally draining. If we work together we can be more productive, more purpose driven, better. Teams go through various stages of group dynamics. I believe that the element of Choice Theory and specifically the ability of a team to plan together, problem solve and support one another interact with the progress teams make from Forming to Producing. Teaming: What does it take? Scenario 1: “Welcome to our middle school.” Talasia has come for an interview. She was trained at an institution of higher learning. She is equipped with the knowledge of 21st Century schools research. She spent time in a ‘Schools to Watch’ environment. Her background is mathematics and language arts. She is technologically savvy and her cover letter indicates she studied the effects of using multiple intelligences strategies on students’ academic achievement as well as their attitudes towards learning. When she arrives at ___ Middle School she is greeted by the administrative assistant where she is invited to observe part of a mathematics lab before sitting in on a team meeting. The teacher and students are engaged in an interdisciplinary unit on the Rain Forest. They are illustrating rain forest data around the world, creating brochures that illustrate three rain forests, how long it would take to get there, what would be seen, and the cost of a round trip visit. During the team meeting a parent is meeting with the team to first discuss the Rain Forest night events that will take place in three weeks. An administrator, the guidance counselor, the literacy coach, and media center specialist are finishing up reports and updates and getting feedback from the team. It appears that the technology teacher and the media specialists are leading the ‘Rain Forest’ meeting. The literacy coach provides a time-line based on last year’s event. After the meeting two students take the prospective teacher on a tour of the school. They explain how the teams are arranged. Sixth grade students are on two-person teams; seventh grade students are on two or three person teams, and eighth grade students are on four person teams. Students participate in an advisory program, intramurals, exploratories, and school wide interdisciplinary units that include service projects. The school is a full-service school and there is a full complement of ‘safety nets’ to support students’ academic and related arts interests. When it is time for the interview, Talasia has a list of comments and questions. The team of teachers sit around a table. They are members of the sixth grade teams. In addition, a physical education teacher, a special education teacher, an ELL teacher and a guidance counselor are at the table. They ask her to share her philosophy. Talasia has done her homework. She knows the school was a ‘Schools to Watch’ organization. She knows about specific programs and opportunities. What do you think Talasia should focus her interview on? Scenario 2: Sharks and Manatees What are the characteristics of more and less effective teams? In the skit "Manatees and Sharks" two teams are described using the language of teams that I have had contact with. After reading each of the skits, write down your views of at least 10 characteristics of the good team and 10 characteristics of the bad team. After you have written down your views, go to responses from other educators to see how your view of what you read compares to what others who have read the skits say. When you finish, write a brief statement of what you perceive to be the most difficult part of teaming and the biggest benefit to it. Characteristics of the Manatees Characteristics of the Sharks Manatees and Sharks a skit about teaming… The Sharks are sitting in an area, but not in a circle. The LA and MA teacher are having a conversation Team Leader the team leader knows about middle schools and believes that it is a good approach to work with children. Math Science SS LA Team Leader: Well, let’s go ahead and do something. Math: (looking at their grade book, is averaging their grades) Team Leader: Since it’s the beginning of the year we are told that we have to do something for our students. (they all look up at the Team Leader with questionable looks) Science: Whatever Team Leader: One thing we could do is get our AA groups to do some intramurals or use a reward system to get our students to work toward a goal of coming to school and be on time and work hard. Social Studies: We don’t have any control over whether our students come to school or not. How do think we are supposed to teach. If the parents would take part in their children’s life, maybe we could get our job done. LA (speaks to Math): I hear they are having a sale at Belk’s this week. Math: Cool. Maybe I’ll go there this week too. Science: (to the team leader) I’m for whatever. Just make it easy. I don’t want to have to keep a lot of records. Team Leader: Is anybody having trouble with any of your students? Social Studies: Sam came in the class and asked for a hall pass. She left for half the class and didn’t have any excuse for being gone all period. I said to her, “where have you been?” she says, “you wouldn’t understand.” Unbelievable. Science: (yawns and looks out the window) Math: (closes the grade book and packs up their stuff) Is there anything else we need to talk about? I need to go run off a worksheet for next period. The skit shifts gears. The next scenario ”Manatees” is a very different team. … The Manatees are sitting in a circle; they all have agendas; there is food and everyone has their calendar with them. Language Arts Math Science Social Studies Team Leader Agenda 1. Announcements 2. Beginning of the year 3. Good things 4. Children Math: Hey (Science) thanks for bringing in the treats. This is great. Science: You’re welcome. I figured we could use some chocolate after last week. Everyone smiles, snickers and nods in agreement. Social Studies: I was so tired Friday I had to take a nap before dinner. Everyone smiles, snickers and nods in agreement. Team Leader: At least we all kept our heads together and our kids had a good time. I hope you all did get some rest this weekend. I had a note in my box from Principal Ruppert. She said that she would like to thank all of us for working so hard in the week of welcome back Manatees. She hopes we will put our week in pictures for a presentation at the North Carolina Middle School Association. Math: Why don’t we get our AA kids to put the show together? Science: That’s a great idea. Language Arts: I could have them write about it in Language Arts and perhaps there are a few kids from each AA who might like to work together during Club Time. We could work with 20 kids in the computer lab and use imovies like we were talking about using this year. Team Leader: That’s great. What do you think (Social Studies)? Social Studies: Since I don’t know anything about computers, I feel kind of bad that I can’t help. Science: I’d be glad to work with (Language Arts) so that we could put together a “suggestions for AA” ideas prior to asking the kids. That way we could get enough information out for you (Social Studies). Social Studies: I don’t know. It makes me nervous. In fact, I’m not real comfortable with Club time anyway. Team Leader: You know (Social Studies) I wonder if there are other teachers who also aren’t comfortable with Club. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to take that concern to Dr. Ruppert. In the meantime I’ll work with you in planning a club that addresses your expertise and interest in current events. Social Studies nods okay. Math pats Social Studies on the shoulder and says: We’ll work with you. Team Leader: Last week we shared concerns about Emma, Sylvia and the Spencer brothers. Has anyone seen any differences? Language Arts: Since we changed the schedules of the Spencer brothers, I have seen vast improvements in Jim. It has really helped him focus. Math: I have seen that too. Science: Since Emma and Sylvia are in my AA I have seen that they are not “ranking” this week. I think it helped that we brought them in and spoke to them as a team. Social Studies: I just hope they aren’t just putting on a show. Language Arts: Well we have to start somewhere. Team Leader: Do you think we should invite the guidance counselor in to our AA groups to talk about friendships or to give us some activities to talk about? Math: I think that would be a good idea. I also think that the kids are getting along okay not only because we’ve talked to them and moved them around but also because of last week’s activities. Science: I hope so. Team Leader: Is there anybody we need to keep our eyes on or talk about? Social Studies: I noticed that Janice isn’t eating any lunch and she was talking to Lynn about seeing how much weight she could use. Science: We are talking about nutrition in class. This is serious though. I think we need to call in the guidance counselor. Math: She’s in my AA. I’ll see about getting her to go meet with the guidance counselor. Ms. Vining is fabulous about meeting with the kids and I know that Janice has met with her before. Team Leader: We’ll keep our eyes open. Is there anything else? (looks around the group.) Thanks again (Science for the treats.) (Return to the chart and fill in your thoughts. Share these with a colleague.) The role of the team leader The advantage of working together as a member of a brand new team is that there is very little history. I viewed my primary role as one of “advocate”. As a team member, I would ask myself ‘what does this person need?’ or ‘what do we need?’ Much of the experiences of being a team leader have to do with supporting and encouraging team members. Demonstrate a commitment to middle school concepts, students and colleagues Be a role model Organize the agenda Communicate objectively Make sure all team members are contributing The role of the team member As a team member, you may not begin your year as the leader, so your job will be one of advocate for your students and their parents. Listen Take initiative Support Have a positive attitude Be on time Give undivided attention Building an effective team. Determine team “rules” Decide what supplies the students need Discuss each other’s strengths Agree on how to communicate with students Agree on how to communicate with parents (parent logs) Be intentional, be multi-layered, and be sustained in your efforts to meet the needs of young adolescents. When I conducted research years ago I linked knowledge of middle school concepts and commitment to these ideals by at least two of the team members made teams more effective (Bell, 1990). I have since come to the reality that middle school components are missing in middle and K-8 schools because there is little knowledge of the components and how to implement them. As you begin to explore the concept of “teaming” realize that it is not something to take lightly and it is not always easy. The focus of a team should be on advocating for one another and advocating for the children through support, planning and problem solving. We as teachers must work together to build relationships with our colleagues and our students. Relationships are built on trust and risk taking. When teachers advocate for one another, they provide a safe place to gather ideas and share experiences. References Bock, M. & L. Joseph (September, 2000). Student as a strategic participant on collaborative problem-solving teams: An alternative model for middle and secondary schools. Intervention in School & Clinic. 36(1), 47. Carnegie Council for Adolescent Development (1989). Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. (1989). Turning points: Preparing American youth for the 21st century. New York: Carnegie Corporation. Cassidy, K. (2007) New model of group development for practitioners. Journal of Experiential Education. 29(3), 413-417. Chrispeels, J. & K. Martin (2002). Four school leadership teams define their roles within organizational and political structures to improve student learning. 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