What Makes A Team?

I’ve taught at many schools, and teams are always important. They should be. We can learn a lot from each other. But what makes a good team?

At a previous school, I remember looking at a grade team that I thought was amazing.

  • They met every week.
  • They always shared resources.
  • They planned together.
  • Their classes and materials always looked the same.
  • They always got along.

These teachers were close friends as well as colleagues. They appeared to be the “perfect team.” Were they? Maybe

Or maybe it’s okay to be part of a team with varying perspectives.

  • Maybe it’s okay to question why we do what we do.
  • Maybe it’s okay to approach the same topic in a different way.
  • Maybe it’s okay to use different resources.
  • Maybe it’s okay to use the same resource, differently.
  • Maybe it’s okay to “plan in passing” and “talk on the go” … be it about students and needs or topics of study.
  • Maybe it’s okay to be part of many teams that meet our many different needs.

I’m one of the lucky ones!

  • I get to learn and work with multiple teams at the school: the other Grade 1 teachers that have worked at this school for years and really understand the students and their needs, the Kindergarten teachers and DECEs that are continuing to embrace Reggio-inspired classrooms, the Grade 2 teachers that are part of the K-2 intervention strategy, the junior and intermediate teachers that are really interested in inquiry and share many of their terrific ideas, the Phys-Ed teachers that are always eager to support and extend classroom learning in the gym, the EAs that share their remarkable knowledge of students with special needs and help me consider new options for meeting these needs, the ESL teacher, LRT, and LLI teacher that support my students through small group intervention, and our Instructional Coach that is regularly sharing new ideas and resources.
  • I get to work with the parents in our classroom: a parent team. Connecting with parents helps me learn more about my students and what works best for them. 
  • I get to work with the principal and vice principal at the school: a team of administrators. We can brainstorm solutions to difficult problems together. We can look at how to support students together. They help me see things differently.
  • I get to be part of online teams: connecting with many educators and administrators on Twitter that share ideas and offer suggestions. Sometimes, like in the case of the Structure Challenge, we even work together and connect our classes.

I find that teams are quickly becoming more than just grade teams contained within the four walls of a school. Now multiple grades and people with various background knowledge are connecting both in and out of school: either in person or online. If the value of a team is to work together to better meet student needs, then many opportunities to share (and question) different approaches and perspectives, matter. What does a “team” look like to you? What are the different voices/varying perspectives that are part of this team? How has this team helped you reconsider your own classroom practices? I’d love to hear more about the “teams” in your life.


16 thoughts on “What Makes A Team?

  1. The best teams I have been on have been hard work. We are currently working at a staff level on Math, having 1/2 day PD every month. The principal sits in on every meeting, everyone, as a member not as a leader but as a member. We have been tasked to as questions, form opinions, read ahead, disagree, and figure it out. I have learned a lot from easy teams where everything is the same but I learn much more from those teams that question me, challenge me, and my ideas until they know what it is that I am trying to say. With this I can say that I understand myself and my learning better, which, for me, is better for my students.

    • Thanks for your comment, Donald! You make such an important point here. For the past 14 years, I’ve always thought of teams as “groups of people that get along and share ideas.” It’s a simple definition, I know, but somehow that always seemed to be what a team was. Team members always worked together. Challenging ideas and professional discourse didn’t seem to be part of teams, but now I’m starting to wonder why. Differing opinions are good. Debate can be beneficial. Maybe these kinds of teams get us to think and question more, and as you said, ultimately benefit our students the most. Is everybody comfortable with this idea though? How do people become more comfortable with this type of team? You’ve given me more to think about …


      • I think maybe a better question might be, why are we so uncomfortable with being uncomfortable? We ask students to challenge themselves all the time why shouldn’t I do the same with myself and my own learning and my teams?

        • This is a wonderful question, Donald! I completely agree with you (one of the reasons I chose “uncomfortable” as my word for 2015). I’m not sure what the answer to this question is, but I do see value with all of us letting go and giving in to feeling a little more uncomfortable.


  2. I read to see if you included parents in the team. So happy to see they are right there. Thanks! The challenge for some teachers will be to accept the value of questions and viewpoints of parents in same way they accept from peers.
    For me, “Team” means accepting the skill sets, knowledge, expertise of each member and using that to build on student achievement. It involves inclusion, accountability and transparency. It means respect.

    • Thanks for your comment! For me, parents are a very important part of school “teams.” I encourage parents to ask questions and offer suggestions. I talk to parents all the time about their child (calling all of them once a week and talking to them after school almost every day): they tell me what they notice at home, what works best for their child, and what might work at school. And I use these ideas. They’re incredibly valuable! Parents really do know their child best.

      Yes, the home and the school environment can be different, but I think that when we work together, students benefit the most!

      P.S. I will be emailing the link to this blog post to my parents, and as with all of my professional blog posts, I encourage them to comment or email me with feedback. Home/school connections matter!

  3. Sometimes I think we are sitting next to each other and brainstorming what’s on our mind. Boy this topic resonates so intensely with me at this time in my career. Makeups of teams vary often depending on the different needs of the members. But to me one thing that holds true across the board is respectful discourse. Listening to hear not just to talk, to share ideas. But of essence is validating others and not making yourself the expert in the conversation.

    • Thanks for the comment, Faige! This post has been on my mind for a while now. You make some great points here about the importance of this “respectful discourse,” and the need to really listen and hear what others have to say. I sometimes wonder if the time restrictions of meeting in school — often everyone’s in a rush to do so many different things — make it more difficult to have these deeper conversations. When I’m talking to parents on the phone or tweeting with other educators online, it’s always outside of school hours, and time is not as big a factor. I think this changes things. What do you think? How do we create more of these conversation opportunities at school? I’m not sure, but I’d love to hear what others have tried.


      • Must be made into a priority, be it PD time or edcamp format. Bring up topics, choose what you want to understand better. Share ideas. Define what you see as a team and share what you need from that particular team. Fear holds us back whether in conversation, tech or whatever it may be.

        • Great point, Faige! It needs to be a priority (and for everyone, I guess). It’s true about “fear.” I think that sometimes we can also feel fearful of sharing ideas (be it in person or online) that may run contrary to what others feel. I remember sitting in some PD sessions where we established norms before working together. It seemed funny to me to have to make group norms, but maybe this is a good practice. Maybe it gives all of us the confidence in sharing our thinking, but also really listening to and hearing the thinking of others. You’ve given me more to contemplate now, Faige!


  4. What a great post about being in a team. I am lucky at Blythwood that we have such an amazing and respectful staff that supports and helps each other. I think that’s what makes a great team. The support, help and sharing which in the end helps the students. We hopefully are all in this profession for the same reason to teach the students. If we all work together as staff, parents and outside supports we will benefit the students and their learning. I agree our team is bigger then our classrooms and schools. I am working with such amazing educators both in my school, throughout my board and on social media! What is the saying? It takes a village to raise a child? I think the team is just that village coming together!
    Again Aviva great post!!

    • Thanks for the comment, Sharon! I especially love the quote that you added at the end … it’s one of my favourite educational quotes. It’s true: it does “take a village to raise a child,” and when we can all share ideas and learn from each other, the children benefit the most. I am also one of the lucky ones, and I definitely see this happening at Dr. Davey School. I wonder though sometimes if the team dynamic changes when/how we meet. As a Grade 1 Team, we often touch base during our common prep time once a week. These are usually more informational meetings. They’re to make some small decisions, touch base with each other, and/or discuss items such as report cards. Time is always a factor. We just have the one period, and we’re usually all trying to get other work done as well. Sometimes we’ll get into longer conversations during this time, but usually, these discussions happen later (often at unplanned times). On Friday, one of the other Grade 1 teachers came into my room at the end of the day. She was showing me something that a parent made for her. I said that what this parent created might work well for our focus on “materials.” That’s when she started to share her ideas, and we started to look at how we could get the parent involved. There was much more back-and-forth in this stand-up meeting then there sometimes is in planned team meetings. But time wasn’t a factor — the day was done and we were both staying to finish up some school work — and so the conversation just naturally evolved until it was done. I find this happens a lot online through Twitter. Again, people login when they have time to talk, questions to ask, and/or ideas to share, and the back-and-forth discussions continue, as does the learning. I find it very interesting to reflect on so many different teams, and the impact that they make on our teaching practices.


  5. I wonder if the “lucky” team was really perfect…
    In a team, I sometimes don’t like working with certain people and if I am surrounded by people who are not working it can get extremely frustrating. I want to be with people who’s thinking is like mine.
    A team for me is a group of people that are happy to work together and are getting work done. Sometimes more independent people should be put in different groups that people who need support.
    These are just things I struggle with as a team… I like to be independent.
    Teacher teams are a different thing. I pick up bits of conversations here and there, I know what teachers are extremely good friends. But during a talk about bullying my teacher said she doesn’t like working with some teachers… and that makes me wonder. How does that affect me in my student life? I struggle with some people too…
    How I look at a team as a strong support.

    • Thanks for your comment, Yusra! I completely understand what you mean. There are definitely those people that I find it easier to work with, and those that I find it more difficult to work with, but in the end, I think that I end up learning from both groups. I also think there’s value in learning to collaborate with those people that have different viewpoints from our own. It forces us to think more about why we believe what we believe, and it helps us see situations from different perspectives. As an adult, I find now that I have some of the best conversations from those people that challenge my thinking the most. What do you think?

      Miss Dunsiger

      • I agree with you.
        Why I think the perfect team was not very lucky was that they didn’t have any mistakes or conflicts to learn from.
        Challenging yourself and getting challenged by people are the many reasons why we are an intelligent world!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *