Sunday, November 4, 2018

Team Magic: The Power of Partnership

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"Highly effective teams know what we're working on, why we're working together (what our team's mission and vision is), and how we'll work together."  - Elena Aguilar, The Art of Coaching Teams
If you've ever been on a dream team you're going to know what I'm talking about in this post.  A dream team is the kind of team where you look forward to ANY opportunity to gather around the table and talk about the work being done.  A dream team is the kind of team where you know EVERYONE has your back.  A dream team is the kind of team where you can toss around tough challenges and new thinking without fear.  Across my teaching career, I've been lucky to be on a number of teams.  I learned a little something in each one of them.  Along the way, I've sat beside teachers who were amazing team members.  I think I learned a lot by watching the way they worked with the rest of the team.

This past month, I've had the privilege of joining teams across our district as they dig into the literacy data we have collected since the beginning of the year.  The goal for teams has been to take a look at the information collected, add what they have learned in side-by-side opportunities, consider the reading and writing work learners have been doing, and find the story for their literacy learners.  These meetings provide an opportunity to look for patterns, plan an instructional focus, determine next steps, and figure out how we will monitor growth.  They also allow an opportunity to harness the power of team in thinking about literacy learners who might have greater need.  

It's interesting to watch teams work together.  As I've sat beside teachers, I've come to realize that the team's relationship with one another is equally important to the work they are doing.  I'm fascinated by the teams that just seem to find a rhythm and go.  I've been thinking about the characteristics that make these teams work and here are a few things I've noticed:

They believe in doing what's best for kids.  Teams who work well together seem to have an understanding that we're here to do what's best for kids.  Their conversations stay focused on learners. These teams don't spend time blaming kids, parents, or past teachers for where a student might be, but instead look for strengths and next steps for learners.  These teams seem to think know they can make a difference.  

They respect one another.   This seems obvious, but it makes a big difference.  Maybe it is more than respecting one another, maybe it is members understanding their role in taking care of the people around them.  It seems these team members know the strengths around the table and reach out to learn from them.  They also hold carefully to turn-taking and listening to one another to consider new ideas and perspectives.

There is great trust.  I have to say in my month of sitting beside a variety of teams, I've been struck by the trust some teams have with one another.  Our work isn't easy, and I've heard teachers openly share their struggles with their team.  On strong teams, these statements aren't judged in any way.  As teachers, we've all been in tough places.  Instead, these statements are met with understanding, careful listening, and tender problem-solving.

I have to say this month of working alongside teams, I've become intrigued by those who seem to have some magic as they come together.  I think I would have once said a team needs to have common beliefs, but honestly I've sat beside teams who have very different beliefs, but are still able to have very powerful conversations.  I think once upon a time I would have said teams need to have similar strengths, but I have learned through my own participation on teams that different strengths make for a powerful team.  In these magical teams, it seems that everyone steps toward common understandings as their time together unfolds.

For those with this magic, savor it.  For those still searching for this magic, I hope you find it.  Having been on teams where there is a synchronicity, I know I will always do all I can to make that happen in my future teams.  The work is too hard to not have people around me to support the work I do, to push when I need a push, and to help me over tough spots.  I'm grateful for the team members along the way who have shared their magic with me.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on characteristics of strong teams.  How have they impacted you in the work you do?  What do you think makes a strong team?  How do you see your role on a team?

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