Having a team of knowledgeable educators work together seems like a relatively easy task since all teachers share the goal of educating their students to the best of their ability. But, there are so many different ways to teach and materials to utilize to accomplish this, that working as a team in an educational environment becomes a daunting objective for a principal trying to create a collaborative working environment among teachers. The following is a principal’s guide to creating an environment based on teamwork among teachers.
Understand What “Teamwork” Means
You cannot promote an atmosphere of teamwork if you do not define it first. Teachers must agree on the definition of what teamwork entails to succeed at doing it. Set aside several professional development meetings at the beginning of the process to discuss what teamwork means. Allow the teachers to brainstorm their ideas and take the best terminology from the suggestions that are given. Then, discuss those terms as a group, formulate a cohesive definition of teamwork, and post it as a mission statement. Don’t forget about it, though. Any time teamwork becomes a challenge, refer to this mission statement as a reminder of where the team needs to be. Some major characteristics to consider are the following:
• Common purpose
• Open-minded to others’ ideas
• Shared responsibilities and accountability
• Collaborative efforts
• Honest communication
• Roles are defined
• Be a good listener
A good place to start before brainstorming begins is to have all the teachers listen to Teach for America: Wendy Kopp in which she discusses the ongoing need for dedicated teachers in the public school system. This will prompt ideas about working together.
Agree On Team Goals
Any team needs a direction and not just vague goals; otherwise, the purpose of teamwork becomes meaningless. As the educational leader, the principal needs to identify specific projects for the team—this becomes the primary goal of the team. Then, there must be roles assigned to each team member; in this way, everyone has their own purpose and direction to take within the group as they work together towards a common goal. Roles can either be assigned in a rotating fashion as the project progresses so everyone feels empowered to use their skills and contribute to every aspect of the project, or each team member can take on a new role with a new project. It is also important to encourage collaborative efforts within the project itself to accomplish the primary goal, but make sure that this does not lead to cliques being formed within the team. Even though roles are being assigned, everyone should feel comfortable making suggestions to one another on how to complete a part of the project in a more efficient way.
Assess The Team’s Progress Over Time
Even though each team member is working together towards a common goal, they do have individual tasks to perform within the scope of the team. It is important that the principal as the educational leader verifies the progress of the project over time via team meetings at appropriate intervals within the project’s allotted time frame. This will put in check any issues that might be happening that speak to losing a common purpose or a lack of honest communication among team members. It also is the time that the principal can refer to the mission of the team and the characteristics that should be upheld as work progresses. This should always serve as an ongoing reminder to keep the team on track.