Search form


Take Five for...

Reflecting on How
Strong Teams
Can Impact
Student Achievement

Principals like Marguerite McNeely have long seen the value and benefits of teamwork. "Our school does a great job with teaming. Our teachers love the opportunity and challenge of coming together to plan for their students and solve problems. The strongest teams have members who have open minds, strong work ethics, creativity, and good leadership. There's no room for personal agendas when it comes to teaming."

In principal Heather Franklin's school, grade-level teachers meet weekly to discuss important themes. The discussion the first week of the month centers on reading; the second week's discussion centers on math; week 3's meeting focuses on writing; and the fourth meeting of the month focuses on other areas of the curriculum. Of course, that schedule isn't set in stone. "Reading and math are a big focus in our district, so they are often discussed; and we often talk about data and what we can do differently across the curriculum."

Principal Charlemeine Zemelko says that teaming helps make her school a special place. "We have a shared vision, and we practice it as a team. We eat together, we plan cross-curricular activities, we communicate similar writing expectations across grade levels As a result of this shared vision, morale is higher than ever. Working as a cohesive team we have found that student achievement is on the rise too."

In Beth Burt's school, all teachers are members of two teams -- a grade-level team and a vertical team. Each vertical team includes a teacher from each grade level as well as a special ed teacher or a "special" (art, music, PE) teacher. Vertical teams meet once every three weeks to discuss an assigned topic. For example, one recent topic was Share with your team how you have integrated technology and instruction. Each vertical team also has responsibility for a special area of the school, such as keeping the marquee current or updating the lobby bulletin board. The concept of vertical teaming has opened communication between grade levels. That, in turn, has improved student achievement."

"Teachers love the idea of teaming, but it is very important to remember that any team is only as strong as its weakest link. It is incumbent upon each member of any team to strive to be the strongest member of the team. There can be a fine line between striving to be one of the strongest members of a team and appearing to be trying to distinguish yourself from the team members. Confident, capable, and compassionate team members know the difference while weak, insecure, and marginally capable team members do not. A team that has even one of the latter types could be destined for disaster. Students will not succeed if faced with a group of teachers whose work together is disjointed, disconnected, or, in some cases, dysfunctional. My goal is that every member of my staff will conduct him or herself as a member of a team that has as its goal the authentic academic and social development of each and every one of our students. When that happens, each staff member will truly understand what it means to be on a team." (Dr. Layne Hunt)

Take Five more to read this entire article from Education World's "Principal Files" series:
"What Makes Effective Teaching Teams Tick?"