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Reflecting on How
Strong Teams Can Impact
Student Achievement (Part 2)


At Kirbyville (Missouri) Elementary School, principal Addie Gaines reports that whole staff meetings have become largely unnecessary because of the school's efficient network of strong teaching teams. "Our teams work together to see all students as 'our students' rather than 'my students' and 'your students.' The important characteristics of a strong team are that the members work together, acknowledge and use each other's strengths and talents, and allow and encourage individuality. Team members are dedicated to their common goals and they also care about the other members of the team. If a team is focused on its goals, then everyone has a single language and a single focus, which allows the goals to be accomplished. Strong teams help create better teacher morale"

Principal Deepi Kang-Weisz sees it as her job to keep grade-level teams on track. "When a team hits a rough spot, my job is to review with them their mission and our school vision, values, and goals. I re-engage them in dialogue about student success."

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Most educators will agree that a school with strong teaching teams can offer huge benefits for students' academic and social growth. But what makes strong teaching teams tick? What are the characteristics shared by members of the best teaching teams in your school? Click to join the conversation. Share your thoughts and ideas so the rest of us can learn from your experiences.

Principal Margaret Morales does not always sit in on grade-level meetings, but when she does she asks team members for comments or concerns with which she might assist. "Some teams have asked for support in a particular area. For example, one team was looking for support with math strategies. I contacted the district supervisor and was able to set up a half-day workshop for them. From time to time I have asked teachers to share ideas or concerns expressed in grade-level meetings at our general staff meetings. That way, teaching and learning strategies can be shared across six grade levels rather than just one. Over the past three years, we have seen increased student achievement because of the commitment teachers have made to coming together and sharing strategies, best practices, and concerns about individual students."

Principal Marguerite McNeely works alongside her school's teams to keep them on track and ensure success. But she also thinks it's important to do "little extra" things to demonstrate her belief that strong teams yield strong results. "Every six weeks, team members vote for the outstanding member of their team, and we recognize those people at our school-wide awards assembly. And from time to time I like to surprise teams with refreshments or other special treats just to let them know how much I appreciate their hard work."

Principal Larry Davis shared with Education World his school's "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!

Take Five more to read this entire article from Education World's "Principal Files" series:
"What Makes Effective Teaching Teams Tick?"
(Education World -- May 10, 2005)