Raise your hand if you’ve ever sat in a grade level team meeting and been frustrated because you’re the only one to share ideas with your team. Raise both hands if these meetings consist of plenty of off topic conversations. One minute the conversation is about math lessons for next week and the next minute the conversation is about the football game this Friday night…or the new movie in the theater…or the latest gossip story about the teacher down the hallway. Can you relate? Well, there’s good news. Collaborating with your team doesn’t have to come with a feeling of frustration as if you are losing your mind. With the right structure and consistency, your grade level team meetings can run smoothly and efficiently.
This sounds a bit silly but it’s a must. Come up with a list of norms that your group will follow. My team decided on these group norms:
Be on time
Turn cell phone off
Conversations are confidential
Be an active participant (sharing and talking)
Stay on task
This list can be as long or as short as you’d like them to be but the most important piece to developing these group norms is that everyone agrees on them. It is not a majority vote, it has to be a unanimous decision.
Consistent Date and Time
Time, one of the toughest things to find as a teacher. Right? As a team, choose a day of the week and a time that will work best for your team to meet. Our team meets on Fridays during our common prep time. Maybe it is your lunch break? Before school? After school? The important part here is to determine that day and time and stick with it all year. This prevents the “I forgot we had a meeting” situation.
Set an Agenda
Agendas keep the team focused on the tasks to be discussed and allow for everyone to plan accordingly prior to the meeting. Who sends this? For our team, I am the team leader so I take care of this task. Your group could have a team leader or the agenda creator could rotate if you’d prefer that. The agenda sender should send out the agenda the morning of the meeting or the day before. This can be determined by your team.
Sharing is Caring
It is an unspoken rule on our team. Everyone contributes one or more resource(s) to teach the following week’s skills. This can be a printable, mentor text, anchor chart idea, Smart board lesson, Youtube video, song, Pinterest idea, center activity, etc. Together we are better. Sharing is caring. Keep this mentality and everyone will benefit. More hands make less work. My strong area has always been math so, often times, I was providing some interactive notebook activities to supplement the curriculum, task cards for formative assessments, math puzzles for early finishers, or even just a card game that I came up with that I knew the kids would love.
Divide and Conquer Copying Tasks
This goes along with the sharing is caring mentality. Each teacher on our team has a post it note. We write down our action item(s). This usually consists of what we are going to copy for our team. This is a huge time saver and an effective way to save yourself time in the long run.
BOT: Back on Task
“BOT” became a bit of a laughing joke to our team but it is effective. Whenever the discussion leads astray and we find ourselves talking about things that aren’t on our agenda and have nothing to do with student learning or lesson planning, someone will say “BOT”. It stands for back on task. It is a joking approach to steer the conversation back to where it should be without having to be the awkward one to point out the issue. It is usually followed by laughs and then the reality of having to move the conversation back to where it needs to be.
Yes, another silly recommendation, but effective. Call me crazy but there’s something about a bag of licorice or a jar of M&M’s that makes a work meeting a little less like work. Snacks tend to lighten the mood. Often times I just keep these in a drawer in my classroom so it’s quick and easy to grab and go.
Trust is Essential
Grade level teams that trust each other tend to work the best together. This is not a quick and easy thing to obtain. It takes work and time. Teams don’t have to be best friends with each other. They don’t have to be the same age with the same interests. They don’t have to hang out together outside of work. But, if you can gain respect and trust with everyone on the team, your year can be a huge success.
Now, if one or more of these components is going to be a struggle for your team, I get it. Work through them. It will be worth it. Have some years been tougher for me than others? YES! That being said, every year we’ve had a grade level team that works together, trusts, and respects each other. What do you do if one member of the team isn’t “pulling their weight”? Go back to the norms as a group. This needs to be a group conversation. Be up front and honest. It will pay off. Best of luck to you and happy teaching!
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