I love being part of a team. I love the feeling of camaraderie that comes from working through a problem and finally coming up with a great solution. I love the sense of accomplishment that I feel when my team brainstorms ideas and lands on something innovative and new. I also love knowing that when things are tough, there are people who have my back.
I’ve worked on a lot of teams in my life. Some have been energizing and positive, others have been frustrating and unproductive.
This year I’ve been reflecting on what makes an ELITE team.
Here are the “must haves” I’ve come up with:
1. Don’t just say what you think others want to hear-When members of an elite team reflect on their work or brainstorm ideas they must avoid the temptation to say what they think their team members want to hear. Elite team members respect one another enough to appreciate differences in opinion and see these differences as opportunities for learning and growth.
2. Be honest with the data-Let the data tell the story and look at it honestly. Just like in number 1, elite teams must be ready to see and hear things that they don’t really want to see and hear. Members must look honestly at the data and be ready to roll up their sleeves and make changes when necessary.
3. Don’t settle-When you think you’ve solved all the problems and answered all of the questions; you’ve actually only just begun. Elite teams are always asking more questions and looking for better ways to accomplish their goals.
4. Create something new-Elite teams are always looking to stay ahead of the curve and be disruptive. These team members attempt to look at common situations in uncommon ways in order to discover new ways to solve problems.
5. Panic-I’ve written about this one before-elite teams are always uncomfortable. Elite teams want more. Elite teams panic now! They don’t wait for others to tell them that they’re not good enough. Elite teams are always striving for more.
Is your team elite?
What else would you add to this list?
This post is dedicated to every new teacher, every struggling teacher and every teacher who just doesn’t feel like they are quite the teacher they wish to be...YET.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for first year teachers. I think it’s because of how traumatic my own first year of teaching was. As I look back to that year I can’t believe how naïve I was and some of the mistakes I made. Now, as I sit here writing this post I am happy to have the perspective and experience of a 15 year career in education. I appreciate that I wouldn’t be where I am today without those traumatic, humbling, stressful, and sometimes even embarrassing experiences during my first year. Even with the perspective I’ve gained over the years, I am still not content with myself as an educator. I’m excited that I still have so much to learn.
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a first year teacher who has made amazing growth so far this year. Now, it’s true that she has a lot more growing to do but she knows it and I hope that our conversation helped her understand that it is okay. During our conversation, I was completely honest with her about where she is and where she needs to be. We discussed the areas that she needs to work on and growth she needs to make. I did not hold back when explaining my expectations. We looked at her two evaluations from this year and compared them side-by-side. Together we celebrated the growth she made and had a very clear conversation about the next steps she needs to take in her journey. She said something to me with tears in her eyes that I’ve heard from new teachers many times, “You make it sound so easy! I want to know what to do, like you do.” I hope my reply gave her comfort when I said that I don’t have all the answers and neither do our coaches and other veteran teachers. I went on to let her in on an important secret--we’ve just tried lots of things that didn’t work and found a few things that do.
Luckily for this teacher and for all of the first year teachers out there, it’s just about time for them to be entering the “rejuvenation” stage.
Our new teachers should start to feel like they’re coming down the home stretch of this crazy year. It’s about time that that can see the finish line in the distance. As they head in to the last leg of their first year there are a few things I want them to remember:
To all of my first year teacher friends, welcome to the rejuvenation stage.
You've earned it.
Before we were a team
Four years ago, when I became the principal at J.W. Reason Elementary School, I had no idea what I was in for. I remember my first meeting with staff like it was yesterday. I let them ask me any questions they wanted. One brave soul said, “Are you nervous?” My reply was complete honesty. I said, “I’m sh*%ing bricks.” That’s right, that was my honest answer to my staff. And, I’ve been completely honest with them ever since.
Great relationships=Great Team=Magic
Honesty and transparency are the building blocks for great relationships. Great relationships are the building blocks of great teams. And, great teams…well, that’s what makes magic happen. If there is one thing that I’ve always believed about education, it’s that a great school day is magical. But, the magic doesn’t happen by accident.
Magic is made when the staff at a school works so closely together that they’re all headed in the same direction, focused on the same goals, and helping one another to become better every day. Urban Meyer calls this “alignment”. In his book Above the Line, Meyer says, “an aligned organization gets things done faster and with better results, and it’s more agile and responsive…” (pg 158).
Time and time again, over the past few weeks I’ve noticed the benefits of alignment among my staff. We have accomplished so much together. When we have a problem, a fail to fill sub, a student in crisis, a family needing help, a new student to the building, a staff member in need, a new idea to try, a failure, or a goal to accomplish, we all work together.
We don’t blame.
We don’t complain.
We don’t defend.
We...as we say...GSD!
Are we perfect? No.
Are we as aligned as we’ve every been? Yes.
Can we get better? Absolutely.
Why? Because we’re a team and we’re going far, together.
I hope my blog posts inspire risk taking and new ways of thinking. I hope to connect with other educators on our journey to always do what's best for children.