If Julie Andrews were to sing my version of “These are a Few or My Favorite Things,” the happy list would include chocolate, coffee, Margaret Atwood novels, and working with my curriculum and teaching teams. Recently I partook in all these favorite things on the same day. Life is good.
I don’t get to work with my teams as often as I drink, eat, and read, but when I do, I know I’ll get a shot of energy and fall deeper in love with education…cue violins. The women I work with are smart, intense, creative, and determined to help students succeed.
I’ve always loved working with a team, but when schools across the country started to push Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), I had an “Are you kidding me?” moment – especially when the incentive phrase used was,”Work smarter- not harder.” Since when has our teaching workload not been increased? Once the wave of skepticism passed, and the teamwork began, everything was magical – well, sort of. We experienced growing pains. We argued with each other, each of us unwilling to leave our comfort zone. (After all, I’ve always taught this skill this way…) Once we got over ourselves and started digging into the best way to engage students in learning, and we created effective assessments that were easy to grade, our mojo got rolling, and we trusted each other enough to share ideas. We still work hard, but we are working smarter.
While my team is red hot, you may be thinking your team ain’t doodley squat.
Doodley squat reason one: What team? I’m all alone; nobody else teaches my subject. Consider building an online PLC . You can reach out and share professional growth with teachers from around the country. Imagine the exposure to fresh perspectives. You may wish to build an online PLC even if you have an in-house team.
Doodley squat reason two: You’re co-worker tells you he will take his toys and go home if he doesn’t get his way. You might be tempted to let him, but it’s better to look at the desired learning goal with your co-worker. Ask him to explain his lesson or unit. Will his lesson help students reach the intended learning target? If yes, great! Use it! If not, can the lesson be tweaked to be more effective? If yes, great! Tweak it and use it! What if his lesson is a dog? What if he wants to use a coloring worksheet because it loosely fits the theme? Try not to slap him with the coloring sheet, and look him calmly in the eye and ask how his lesson meets the learning goal. When he utterly fails, together you can explore lessons that will help students meet the learning goal. Your willingness to try your partner’s ideas should encourage your partner to accept your ideas.
Doodley squat reason three: Your co-worker lacks teaching skills. This is a mentoring opportunity for you. Mentoring will help you hone your teaching craft while paying it forward. (It’s likely someone helped you with a few teaching struggles.)
If you tried everything you can think of, but your PLC still stinks, you might want to consider that you need to do some self-reflecting or seek help from someone who is at a higher pay grade. Once your PLC is red hot, the hills will be alive with teamwork as one of your favorite things.