Saturday, September 20, 2008

Do They Play Fair?

As educators, we all work on a team. At The Creek it is no different. We have grade level teams, content teams, technology teams, co-teach teams, novice and mentor teacher teams, and spirit teams just to name a few. I have the opportunity as an instructional coach to interact with many of these teams, and to attend meetings from a variety of content areas and across multiple grade levels. This provides me with the unique perspective of observing these groups in action and seeing the dynamic of the whole team, as well as the interaction between individual members.

I am a keen observer, astute listener, and quick synthesizer. As an instructional coach, I have to be. I also find myself coaching people rather than just content, so sometimes for the best interest of the teacher and the team mates, I have to confront people to point out that they are not playing fair.

Admit it, you have some of those people on your own team. You know them, they sit at a meeting looking somewhat disinterested, enter 15 minutes late for no apparent reason, roll their eyes when another member shares an idea, or sit quietly and never volunteer to take on any of the work load. As I sit and watch, I have to wonder, "Do they think I can't see them?" "Do they think their team mates don't notice?" Or, more likely, "Do they think no one will say anything to them about their behavior?"

In thinking about this whole topic (Playing Fair) I'm wondering how often people reflect on their role on the team. I wonder if each of them knows the extent to which they either assist in keeping harmony or increase the strain on a team. I'm curious how many more student learning outcomes would be accomplished if everyone on the team worked toward the common goal. Granted, I don't have much of this at Chets. In fact, almost everyone does play fair, but what about those few that don't? And, how will the rest of the players feel if I don't somehow confront the ones that don't play fair? So, I thought, why not create a reflection tool hoping that those that don't play fair will recognize their faulty ways and change. What do you think, will this work?

Directions: Give yourself one point if you could answer the question yes, and zero points if you would have to answer the question no.

My team members would….

1. _____ consider me a giver rather than a receiver.

2. _____ say I share ideas about instructional practices with them.

3. _____ believe that I value the efforts of every member.

4. _____ consider me approachable and friendly.

5. _____ assume that I am flexible and know that I can compromise.

6. _____ deem me as a member who will keep team harmony.

7. _____ thank me for sending them assessments, homework, activities etc...

8. _____ know I implement new ideas into my classroom practice.

9. _____ deem me a thinker that helps take their work deeper.

10. _____ consider me a reader of professional literature.

Add up your points.

10 Congratulations! You are the ultimate team player!

8-10 You are a great team player! I want you on my team!

7-8 You could be a better team player. Consider making a few changes.

0-7 You are not a team player. You may want to join another team!

What are your thoughts, would this reflection tool help offenders who don't play fair think about their actions? Or, do you think that the greatest offenders wouldn't recognize their destructive behavior? Let me know your thoughts.


Angela said...

I value anything that challenges people to become self-reflective, and this piece definitely does that. I think that offenders might be more apt to reflect honestly if they knew they weren't going to be called out for their less-than-stellar actions...maybe if they knew they wouldn't have to share. Would also be kinda neat, I'm thinking, if coaches did one too....around what it meant to be a good coach....and if we were willing to be honest about our shortcomings too. You've reminded me of something a seasoned coach reminded me of this summer. She spoke to the importance of being vulnerable with those we aim to serve. I can see how a necessary leveling of the playing-field is always a good thing...maybe sharing our own "surveys" and self-reflections could help with this.

Mrs. McLeod said...

This would be an interesting tool to use to anonymously assess each other as well. Sometimes your view of yourself (as a team member) is different than that of your teammates. Someone who is always speaking his/her opinion may see this helpful, when others may think this is bulldozing. The same is true of the silent teammembers. They may think they are keeping the peace, but the team sees them as noncontributors. This could be an interesting and empowering team builder activity!

dayle timmons said...

This is such an interesting observation. Before coming to Chets Creek I spent several years on a team that had a single member that was like a cancer on the team. Any idea that was anything extra was seen as a negative and she had no problem pushing people down and really sqashing risk takers and creative ideas. I would have given anything if an administrator had called her on it. More than that, I wish I had called her on it. Of course, back then I don't think I realized what a collegial team that was supportive instead of competitive could accomplish. I am eternally grateful for my team experiences at Chets where I have learned how powerful a group can be when they share a common goal. When that one teacher retired the entire dynamic of that team changed. I don't think I could ever sit back and watch that happen again.

Anonymous said...

The idea of playing fair resonates through out my team. I found myself reflecting on meetings I've attended just this year and I can see many who would embrace this tool (anonymously)I think that it would not register with some "offenders" and could reinforce behaviors
Deb Stevens

Anonymous said...

I do agree, there are somtimes a cancer in every group. But, the good thing is, that there are so many more cures then ever before!
Terri Lehane.

Anonymous said...

I have served on many teams, both in and outside of school. When someone chooses not to play fairly, the opportunities to impact student learning are undercut. Ultimately, the students pay the price for this behavior. I would hope that your reflection tool would lead to self-realization and change. Unfortunately, the more you "cheat" the less you see it as a poor choice.
-Cheryl C.

Anonymous said...

I must say that this post was most interesting and insightful. On behalf of new teachers everywhere I would like to mention one thing. It can be very hard to be new and not have a plethora of built up strategies or resources to be able to share. Sometimes all you have to share is a positive attitude and cheery outlook. But with that said, it is better to be a team cheerleader who is happy to be around and soak up all you can from those with the experience than it is to become a wall flower and seem disinterested and disconnected.

Rachel Happ

Mrs. Wallace said...

Rachel's comment was my thought as well when I was reading some of the questions on the survey. When you are a new team player without some of the experiences of your more experienced players, you may at times feel like you are not able to contribute anything valuable to the team other than having a cheery disposition. But I sometimes, coming into a situation with a new set of eyes is the best contribution that can be made even if it happens only once.

I do try to take advantage of the 'small' moments when I can contribute something to the team. At the moment though, there are many more moments when I feel that I am more of a receiver than a giver. However, I am forever grateful that I am surrounded by team players, not just in my subject or on my grade level but within the entire school more than willing to give and I try to express to them my gratitude but saying 'thank you' just doesn't seem to be enough. Instead, these team players basically give me the message to 'pay it forward' because either they had someone in their beginning do the same for them or they wish they had someone to do so for them. It inspires me to become a better teacher which can only benefit the students, the ultimate reason for my chosen profession.

Moena said...

This was a very interesting piece Suzanne --- Self-reflection is hard for a lot of people, my fear is that the people who really need to read this blog, aren't going to read it, but, im happy its here, cause its profound!
Missing Chets a lot,

The Lipsky Team said...

Thank you Suzanne for sharing this piece with us! I think it is so important to remember that everyone on your team has something valuable to offer. The fifth grade team this year is an excellent example. We are a diverse group of educators and everyone has something important that they bring to the table. Whether it be the gift of organization, knowledge, humor, etc. we can all contribute in our own useful ways! I am going to make a "Are you a productive member of the Team?" checklist for my students. :)

Suzanne said...

Thank you all for your reflection on this piece. I've reflected on the first one...consider me a giver rather than a receiver...and I'd like to amend that statement to say... consider me a giver and a receiver. We are all life-long learners who need to continue to learn and grow together. The way to do that is to receive, with open ears and an open mind, the contributions of your teammates. And, I loved how Patricia said,
'pay it forward.' Because, at the Creek, you only have the luxury of being a new teacher for a year. Year become a mentor to others. :)

Thanks, again. I love working with you all!

Jenny said...

This post came to my mind this morning as I was working with my husband and daughter on her K homework this weekend -- preparing for the Pow Wow. I'd like to compliment the K, 1, and 2 teams. Each of these grade levels take on a special project each year that is implemented as a grade level -- the Pow Wow, the Sleepover, and the Multicultural Day. If my understanding is correct, these events require teamwork and cooperation as a whole team. As I reflect on the other grade level traditions, I cannot think of an intermediate grade level that has a tradition that unites the teachers in quite the same way. Perhaps I'm wrong. I admire these teachers for working so well in such large teams, as I understand that the more members a team has, the more difficult it can be to work effectively together. Congratulations to them all. I'd love to see the intermediate teams implement some similar activities. :)

Suzanne said...

I applaud these traditions in our primary school as well. These teachers do work really hard and cooperation is a must because the event occurs all on the same day. In 3rd, you all unite each year to do the play. This takes great team work to pull off from selecting the play, to props, to music, to set up etc... I guess the difference is that we cannot seat all of the 3rd parents in one sitting, so the event takes over a week to pull off. I do admire the 3rd grade teachers for this feat, because I know it takes a lot of work! (It has been a few years since I taught third, but the play remains memorable to me.) :)