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STRUCTURING TEACHING TEAMS FOR ACADEMIC SUCCESS

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Teaching teams can be structured in many ways. Below, the contributors to this article describe briefly how the teams in their schools are structured.

Gunther School
North Bellmore, New York
Grades K-6
Laurance E. Anderson, principal

I work in a "Noah's ark" school -- two teachers at each grade level K to 6. Those two-by-two pairings create "instant teaming." I try to establish teams that I know will work based on staff members' expressed interest in working with a specific colleague or my own skill at "matchmaking" people with complimentary teaching styles. Since we have a considerable special ed population, our staff must strongly and positively endorse the inclusion model and openly welcome and interact with our special ed and clinical services staff.


Ten Commandments
For Effective Teams

1. Help each other be right -- rather than wrong.
2. Look for ways to make new ideas work -- rather than for reasons they won't.
3. If in doubt, check it out -- rather than making negative assumptions.
4. Help each other win, and take pride in each other's accomplishments.
5. Speak positively about each other and about our school.
6. Maintain a positive mental attitude no matter what the circumstances.
7. Follow the agenda -- don't get off subject.
8. Do everything with enthusiasm -- it's contagious.
9. Believe in what you are doing -- always persist.
10. Have fun!

Source: Larry Davis, principal, Doctors Inlet Elementary School in Middleburg, Florida

Glen Oaks School
Hickory Hills, Illinois
Grades 2-5
Lucie Boyadjian, principal
Teams at my school are organized by grade levels; one or two specialists (for example, teachers of reading, special education, PE, art, music, media, and ESL) are included with each grade-level team. I have weekly meetings with the teams to discuss an array of topics including academics, after-school tutoring for at-risk students, behavior problems, parent concerns, truancy, curriculum mapping, and tri-annual online reading and math test results. Our discussions are aimed at meeting specific grade-level test-result targets based on the previous year's state test results. We also have a designated staff development day each month; students leave an hour earlier than usual on those days.

Scott Johnson Elementary School
Huntsville, Texas
Grades K-4
Beth Burt, principal

At my school, everyone belongs to two different teams. They have their grade level teams, and everyone is on a vertical team that comprises one teacher from each grade level plus either a special ed or special subject teacher. Grade-level teams have weekly meetings for sharing information and to plan. Each grade-level team has a team leader. The team leader serves as the communicator between the team and me. Vertical teams meet after school once every three weeks.

Doctors Inlet Elementary School
Middleburg, Florida
Grades K-6
Larry Davis, principal

At Doctors Inlet, grade-level teams meet and plan together for 30 minutes every day while their students are in resource classes. Team members agree to abide by a special list of "Ten Commandments" [see sidebar] that focus on open listening and respect. In addition, we have five committees -- Student Improvement, Multimedia, Spirit, Vertical Alignment, and Curriculum Council -- that meet once each month. (The Curriculum Council is the only stipend position; all the others are volunteer committees.) Each committee comprises one person from each grade level; one person, the committee chairperson, sets the agenda for the monthly meeting based on suggestions from the staff. The grade-level person on each committee provides his or her team with committee updates and discusses issues related to committee work. Our teams and committees have input on everything from the budget, goal-setting, and school-wide discipline to where to hold the end-of-year luncheon and superlatives for teachers.


Grade-Level Chairs
Have Many Responsibilities

--- Set goals for the year to reflect needs in the areas of staff development and curriculum improvement.
--- Work closely with principal, assistant principal, and other members of the leadership team to achieve school-wide goals, improve teaching and learning, set schedules...
--- Plan grade-level student recognitions, contests
--- Demonstrate instructional leadership and professionalism.
--- Prepare agendas and conduct grade-level meetings; provide meeting and attendance notes to school leadership.
--- Represent the grade level at meetings regarding district-level programs.
--- Develop and manage grade level budget; monitor and order supplies; manage requisitions/purchase orders and invoices.

Source: Heather Franklin, principal, Hiawatha Elementary School in Othello, Washington

Hiawatha Elementary School
Othello, Washington
Grades K-6
Heather Franklin, principal
In our K-6 elementary school we have grade-level teams. Each team includes a grade-level chair [see sidebar], which is a stipend position. Our special teachers -- including our librarian, reading coach, and counselor, and teachers of computer, PE, music, and speech -- are "adopted" by a grade level. (No time is built into the day for teachers to meet with specialists, so the teams accept responsibility for keeping those teachers in the loop.) Grade-level teams meet at least once a week during common planning times. That time is focused collaboration time. The focus of the meeting changes from week to week; the first meeting of each month, the discussion focuses on reading, the second week on math, the third week on writing, and the fourth week on social studies and science. I make myself available for the monthly reading meetings and for whatever other meetings teachers would like me to attend.

Kirbyville Elementary School
Kirbyville, Missouri
Grades K-3
Addie Gaines, principal

Our classroom teachers have the same plan time each day. K and 1 students have specials at the same time; grade 2 and 3 teachers are at the same time too. We have four specials -- a 1-hour art block; a one-hour block that includes 30 minutes of music and PE (which students get twice a week); a 40-minute library time; and a fourth period that rotates throughout the year. The Monday to Thursday schedule remains the same all year; the Friday schedule changes each quarter so one class's schedule might look like this:

Quarter 1: M-Art, T-PE/Music, W-Library, Th-PE/Music, F-Art
Quarter 2: M-Art, T-PE/Music, W, Library, Th-PE/Music, F-PE/Music
Quarter 3: M-Art, T-PE/Music, W-Library, Th-PE/Music, F-Library
Quarter 4: M-Art, T-PE/Music, W-Library, Th-PE/Music, F-PE/Music

For each day's planning meeting, teams discuss topics, issues, students In addition, from time to time I bring up topics that I think the grade level needs to discuss. This format means that whole-staff meetings have become mostly unnecessary. I share points of interest and importance in my weekly staff memo.


Go Team!

The benefits of teaming are many. They include
--- Teams create a sense of community for students -- a "home base" where a student can feel comfortable and known.
--- A teaching team serves as a core group of adults in a student's life. Teachers meet regularly to monitor and discuss students' academic and social progress. They have a complete view of a student's abilities and progress.
--- Teachers work to make connections between subject areas and to develop well-rounded interdisciplinary units that reinforce learning.
--- Being part of a team helps new students adapt to new schools.
--- Teaching teams use common classroom and grading procedures. Students don't have six different teachers with different sets of rules regarding assignments, behavior, homework...
--- Teachers on teams coordinate project deadlines as well as upcoming quizzes and tests.
--- One teacher can contact parents when needed and convey information about a student's progress in all areas.
--- Teachers can share strategies that work with whole classes and individual students.

Monroe High School
Monroe, Michigan
Grades 9-12
Dr. Layne B Hunt, principal
Our ninth-grade teachers are organized into teams. Each team comprises a teacher of each core subject. Those teams follow what many might consider a typical "middle school" teaming structure. The teachers love the idea of teaming. Parents' and students' reactions are mixed, depending on the perceived strengths and weaknesses of members of the team. That's why it is so very important for teachers to realize that any team is only as strong as its weakest link and that it is incumbent upon each member of any team to strive to be the strongest member of the team.

Edenrose Public School
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Grades
Deepi Kang-Weisz, principal
Grade level-teams are established, each with a "grade chair" who is responsible for sharing information with team members. Chairs facilitate grade-level meetings for long- and short-range planning, assessment discussions, grade-level issues They are also the liaisons between the grade teams and the administration. In addition, we have a School Success Leadership Team, which comprises a representative from each grade level, the in-school support teacher, other support staff, and representatives from the School Council; the purpose of that leadership team is to guide the school success planning process. Finally, we have Solution Teams that come together to solve specific issues that arise. Those teams are dissolved once the issues have been resolved.

Hayden R. Lawrence Middle School
Deville, Louisiana
Grades 4-6
Marguerite McNeely, principal

Each of our grade-level teams meets for two hours each month. The team's "team leader" is responsible for setting the agenda of those meetings, organizing or assigning group members to accomplish specific tasks to ensure grade-level success, and keeping a folder of meeting concerns and issues. Our staff members recognize that each of them has an equal stake in ensuring the success of the whole team. They love the opportunity to come together to plan for their students and to solve problems. They are a very professional staff.

Franklin School
Rahway, New Jersey
Grades K-5
Margaret Morales, principal
In our school, teams are formed across grade levels and subject areas. We also have special education, ESL, and basic-skills teams. Each team is responsible for meeting weekly with their fellow teachers to plan lessons, discuss curriculum, evaluate programs They have one hour built into their schedule (each Wednesday) to meet and plan with their fellow teachers. Special ed teachers get an extra 35-minute planning period with their inclusion classroom teachers once a week. Each team has a team leader who is responsible for making sure the team meets, collecting all agendas and notes, taking attendance, writing up the team's action plans and goals, and tracking assessments throughout the year. In December and May, the team leader also develops the grade-level budget and orders supplies and other materials for the following school year. Teaming has worked out very well for us the past three years. We have seen increased student achievement because of the commitment the teachers have to coming together and sharing strategies, best practices, and concerns about individual students.

Chicago International Charter School
Chicago, Illinois
Grades K-12
Charlemeine Zemelko, principal
Our school's teams are structured by grade level. Teams include "specials" teachers. Each team has a lead teacher. We also have an achievement director for the high school and a student support manager who supports all teams. The lead teachers are responsible for meeting with the achievement director, student support manager, and the school academic counselor and sharing information about those meetings with members of their teams. When a teacher has a specific issue or problem, he or she tries to work it out with the help of the lead teacher before taking it to other members of the administration team. Lead teachers also take part in evaluating members of their teams. They work closely with the school's curriculum coordinator too. It takes a lot of work -- lots of listening and cultivating -- to develop teams that are successful.

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Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2009 Education World

Originally published 05/10/2005
Last updated 11/26/2009


 

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