5 Characteristics of an Effective School Team
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the question of what characteristics are necessary for a successful school team. I’ll share some of these thoughts with you, but what I’m most interested in is hearing your take on this topic.
I will be the first to admit that it took me some time to come around to the idea that teams can accomplish great things. Up until very recently, I did not have a lot of successful experiences working in groups. I had the impression that when I worked by myself, I could produce whatever needed to be created more effectively and more quickly than when I collaborated with others. When I worked in groups, I frequently experienced feelings of frustration because the process seemed to move at such a slow and laborious pace. I had the impression that the majority of the work was delegated to me (or that I took it on myself). I was unaware of the characteristics of a productive team, how members interacted with one another, or the potential advantages of participating on such a group.
These beliefs, however, have shifted for me over the past few years as a result of my experience on a few different teams. Now, I feel compelled to figure out how to create and develop good teams, as well as to identify the specific moves that a coach or facilitator makes while guiding a group through this process. I want to learn how to cultivate powerful teams that are capable of bringing about change in educational institutions.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
The following are some of the reasons why I believe it is important for us to articulate our beliefs and practises regarding good teams:
It is imperative for a school to have robust teams if it wishes to keep and maintain its teaching staff. Teachers report feeling connected to their colleagues and supported by them in schools where there is a low staff turnover rate. This is true even in schools located in challenging urban environments. They also describe having the sense that they are members of a group that is working toward achieving a common goal together. The feelings that are triggered for us in this setting are the ones that keep us working diligently toward a challenging goal for a considerable amount of time. The field of public education is a challenging one in the modern era; therefore, we require structures (like powerful teams) that help cultivate our emotional resilience.
When members of a team work well together, they pick up new skills from one another. They are able to achieve significantly more than any one of them could on their own. They are each other’s sources of inspiration and competition. It is possible to take advantage of a person’s strong points, and we can avoid engaging in activities that are outside of our areas of expertise. Taking on a massive undertaking (like renovating a school, for example) using this method is not only effective but also satisfying to accomplish.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD TEAM?
The following are some of the primary qualities that, in my opinion, contribute to the success of a team:
1. A good team is aware of the reason for its existence.
It is not sufficient to simply say, “We are the sixth grade team of teachers.” This is only what defines you (you teach the same grade), not why you exist as a group in the first place. One could say that “We come together as a team to support each other, learn from each other, and identify ways that we can better meet the needs of our sixth grade students.” This would be a purpose for being a team. It doesn’t really make a difference whether you refer to it as a purpose or a mission. What is important is that those who attend don’t ever get the impression that they are just being forced to attend “another meeting.” The purpose is one that is pertinent, meaningful, and unmistakable.
2. A strong group fosters an environment conducive to educational growth.
Those of us who are employed in educational settings might get together in a group for a variety of reasons; however, I believe that each and every one of those reasons ought to include opportunities for us to learn with and from one another. There are very few educators that I have encountered who do not want to learn; we are a curious bunch, and there is a great deal to learn about education. Therefore, in a productive team, learning takes place within a secure environment. We are free to make errors, to take chances, and to inquire about anything and everything we desire.
3. There should be some level of conflict on a good team.
If we’re going to learn together and work on some kind of project together, then this is unavoidable and absolutely necessary. There is constructive dialogue and dissent, and we are pushed to think critically as a result of our disagreements about ideas.
4. The members of a successful team have trust in one another.
This ensures that any conflicts that inevitably arise are handled in an appropriate manner. People are familiar with one another. We take turns listening to one another. There are agreements in place regarding how we are to interact with one another and how we are to treat one another, and we are responsible for monitoring these agreements. Additionally, there is an individual, such as a facilitator, whose job it is to make sure that this is a secure environment. In addition, trust must exist within a strong team in order for there to be equitable participation among team members and shared decision-making. There does not appear to be a repetition of the unequal patterns and structures that are prevalent in our larger society (such as male dominance of discourse and so on).
5. A successful group will have a facilitator, a leader, or shared leadership roles.
Someone, or a group of people taking turns, is in charge of navigating the ship at all times. This ensures that there is the kind of intentionality, planning, and facilitation in the moment that is necessary for a team to be able to perform at a high level as a unit.
This final point is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot this fall: what qualities should a good team leader possess? In what specific ways does she act as a facilitator? How can leadership roles be rotated or shared among multiple people?
I currently have the pleasure of working with an outstanding group of instructional coaches, and we are all considering this issue together. I am so appreciative to have such a wonderful team! We are in the process of developing a facilitation rubric for coaches. This will be a tool that identifies and articulates the specific actions that we take in order to develop a team that feels purposeful and safe for learning, and that ultimately leads to improved outcomes and experiences for the students that we serve. We have high hopes that this instrument will prove useful not only in our clinical work, but also in the work of others.