My teaching career began when I was hired at the above school to serve as a fourth grade educator. Before school started I remember setting up my classroom. While setting up I met my two other fourth grade teammates, Linda and Jeanette. Linda (now retired), a veteran teacher with over 30 years of experience told me about the school’s history and what to expect. Jeanette (still being an amazing teacher at the same school) was assigned to be my mentor and she helped me setup my schedule and classroom. As the year progressed our team developed into an important part of our lives. Looking back, there were some distinct characteristics that made us work so well together.
Everyone had a voice:
When making decisions all of use would offer our opinion. We weren’t short on opinions. Regardless of the decision we decided that our voice, collectively, and as a team, matters. I remember having debates on instruction/curriculum, but in the end we came to a decision and moved onto the next item. No judgement. It wasn’t easy all the time. There were some strong disagreements, but we eventually came up with a way to find a solution. I felt as though this solution-oritented mindset helped us improve and make better decisions.
Decisions were based on what was best for our kids:
The majority of decisions were based on what was best for our kids. By our kids, I mean that the entire grade level was the team’s responsibility. At times we would bring the entire fourth grade in the hallway to communicate these decisions. Sometimes we were territorial with our own class, but that was also because we valued our classes so much.
Planning set the stage for better learning experiences:
This particular school required our team to plan together. There was a designated time that was assigned for this. All three of use brought our ideas to the table to make curricular decisions. Administration at the particular school gave teachers flexibility in how the standards were taught. This autonomy went a long way in helping us bring innovate ideas into the classroom. Decisions were made and documented.
Our grade level team planned to switch classes for certain content areas. I taught all three classes social studies throughout the week. Jeanette taught writing to the grade level and Linda used experiments and models to teach Science. I can still picture the terrariums in the hallway. Each teacher saw all of the students in the grade level at least once a week. This wasn’t always ideal because scheduling was sometimes a nightmare, but it definitely gave all three teachers a sense of ownership for the entire grade level. We gave grades for our certain content areas and had to be on point with the scheduling involved.
Of course they’re many other characteristics that I could mention, but these are the three that stood out to me. The team dynamics helped shape each member of the team into becoming better. I believe that example also impacted the students in helping them become better as well. I feel fortunate to have had such an influential team so early in my teaching career. That support helped pave a path in helping me improve my own practice.