The Week Ahead:
Do you ever open up your inbox, or click on a link and there it is in all its glory…that perfect article or message that you needed to hear or wanted to share with someone? That is what happened to me as I sat down to write this post! This week we will have our first staff meeting and the topic is on setting team norms. Luckily, this week’s Choice Literacy article was on the exact same topic. Kismet! When I say setting team norms I not only mean between team members on a grade level, I also mean the people that you work closest with: teachers, assistants, and co-teachers. Back in the spring we spent time at the retreat talking about the character traits we possessed that were similar to those of the characters in the Hundred Acre Woods. Hopefully this began to open up a dialogue between you and your colleagues about what makes you tick…the good, the bad and the ugly! 🙂 We plan to continue this conversation on Wednesday when we will ask you to sit down with your team members (grade level and daily co-workers) and begin to set some team norms. I think the article below gives an excellent explanation as to why this is so important. I know these are not always comfortable conversations to have, however they are some of the most important work you will do in building a solid foundation for your team. Just like setting up routines and procedures in your classroom during the first weeks of school sets the tone for your year, setting norms for you and your colleagues helps start you all off on the right foot. I think it is important to write these norms down and keep them in a place where they are revisited frequently. Pull the list out and make sure you are holding one another accountable. As the author states below, ” Norms are what allow groups to gang up on the problem, and not on each other.” Have a fabulous week and I look forward to listening and learning from all of you!
The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other.
Recently I met with Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, coauthors of the brilliant Think Tank for 21st Century blog. I was complimenting them on their work, and was stunned to hear how they were virtual strangers when they began collaborating.
“Kim had responded to a tweet about a book I was writing,” Jan explained. “A couple weeks after that initial tweet, we chatted about how to get our ideas out more immediately and decided to do a blog together. We made the decision on Friday, Kim’s husband had tech experience and helped us over the weekend, and on Monday the blog was launched.”
Over three years later, the blog is stronger than ever, with a large national audience. Kim and Jan have written hundreds and hundreds of blog entries together. It’s been the catalyst for articles, books, presentations, and an enduring partnership. I marveled at how they could write in one voice in such a public way, even as they were just getting to know each other.
Kim said, “It all comes back to the norms we established at the start. When something is off, it can be awkward but it’s so important that one of us says, ‘I hate to bring this up, but look at our norms. This is the one we need to work on.” I asked to look at the norms, and they were a bit sheepish about their simplicity. But I thought they were wonderful:
1. Don’t ignore a nudge.
2. Be upfront and honest.
3. Don’t get too far into something without letting the other one know.
4. Talk through before if possible; if not, the one doing the work alone takes the risk.
5. We have to make it as safe as possible for the other person to disagree.
Jan added, “It’s a document that’s outside of us – it makes it less personal or threatening to have something not within us, but a touchstone beyond our personalities or the work. The norms remind us of what our collaboration is supposed to look like.”
I thought of the many meetings I’ve sat in at schools, groups that usually started with establishing norms. Sometimes these are even read at the start of every meeting, usually in a cursory way. “We promise to start and end on time, to give everyone an equal voice. . .” It’s no wonder when things fall apart that it feels personal. You can’t blame a lack of attention to norms if you followed them, starting and ending every meeting on time. Or they were so vague (“we will respectfully include everyone”) that they are of no use when deep conflicts arise.
Jan and Kim’s norms are all about communicating. Big breakdowns are avoided when little ones are acknowledged (“Hey – I’m nudging you with this idea, but you are ignoring me”). When is the last time you put some time into establishing detailed, specific norms about communication with any team or group? It’s important, time-consuming work, but the truth is even someone you’ve known a long time on staff might be a virtual stranger when it comes to collaboration. As committees are formed for the year and meetings get under way, revisiting and revising the norms of collaboration may be some of the most important work you do in the early days of the school year. Norms are what allow groups to gang up on the problem, and not on each other.
Founder, Choice Literacy
The Week at a Glance:
Monday, August 31st:
Tuesday, September 1st:
-3rd Grade BOG
-Parent Advisory Meeting at HS from 8:30a.m.-9:30a.m.
Wednesday, September 2nd:
-K-7 Staff Meeting in MS Gym – Setting Team Norms
Thursday, September 3rd:
Friday, September 4th:
-Elementary Spirit Friday!
September 7 – Labor Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
September 9 & 10 – K-7 Yearbook Pictures (more info to come….)
September 11 – 6th Grade Ropes Course (Angell, Harrison, Aichele, Birch); Ident-a-Kid Photos 1:00p.m.-2:00p.m.
September 14 – Holiday – NO SCHOOL
September 15 – Fundraising Discount Cards & $ due
September 16 – K-7 Curriculum Night (6:00p.m.-8:00p.m.) NO STAFF MEETING
September 16-18 – 5th Grade Barrier Island Field Trip
September 18 – 6th Grade Ropes Course (McCoy, Godkin, Merithew, Pagan)
September 23 – Holiday – NO SCHOOL
October 1 – 1st Grade Field Trip to Children’s Theater
October 2 – Elem Spirit Friday
October 5 – Parent Advisory Meeting at HS – 7:30p.m.-8:30p.m.
October 7 – Staff Meeting – Baby Shower for baby D’Esterre
October 8 & 9 – 1st Grade Fairy Tale Ball
October 16 – CSD Homecoming!
October 28 – K-5 Parade of Fiction
October 29 & 30 – Teacher Workdays – Optional Parent/Teacher Conferences
November 2 – Parent Advisory at HS at 7:30 – Cybersafety Guest Speaker
November 4 – K-7 Staff Meeting
November 11 – Veteran’s Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
November 13 – 6th Grade Greek Day
November 19 – 2nd Grade Performances
November 20 – Africa Day
November 25-29 – Thanksgiving Holidays – NO SCHOOL
-Make sure you have updated the Medical Emergency Documents on the drive and have turned in copies of all Medical Emergency paperwork and to the front desk. Grades K-5 will keep original copies of the “Yellow Cards” in their classroom. Grads 6-7 will turn in original copies of the “Yellow Cards” to the front desk (and may make copies for their own records if you prefer). This is super important, so we appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.
-Heads up…We will be conducting a Fire Drill in the near future. You may want to go ahead and prepare your class(es) with the exit Plan for your classroom.
-This week’s Staff Meeting will focus on setting team norms. The following google doc contains some ideas to ponder prior to this week’s staff meeting.
In addition, we felt the following article form Time magazine also had some important points about dealing with conflict in the workplace. Remember, conflict is not necessarily bad! In fact, in our particular line of work, conflict is probably inevitable. However, it’s how we handle conflict that matters. Healthy conflict resolution skills are an essential element to maintaining functional work relationships that foster a sense of community. So as hard as it seems, there are times when “difficult” conversations are necessary. Hopefully this article will help guide our steps as we strive to create (and maintain) an optimum working environment for all!
“How to Have Difficult Conversations at Work” (Time Magazine)
Three 3’s in a Row
Three 3’s in a Row (Himmele & Himmele, 2009) is an activity like Bingo, in which students interact with peers and get peer’s feedback on what they should write in the boxes of their template (see below figure). This is a terrific engagement strategy because:
- Students choose to answer what they feel most comfortable with, allowing other students to get their opinions from “peer experts.”
- All students, whether expert or not, are required to process the concepts in each of the nine boxes.
- It provides teachers with a quick assessment of what students have learned well, and what students need help with. Teachers simply walk around looking for a trend in which boxes are still empty.
- It leads to great conversations that make use of critical thinking.
How it Works:
- Prepare nine questions based on the content being learned.
- Students walk around the room asking peers to explain one answer (only one answer) to them
- Students summarize their peers’ responses in their box. (Do not let students write in each other’s template).
- Students then find another peer to answer another question and repeat the process. Students can use any particular peer only once.
- Go over the answers as a class, by asking for volunteers to share their responses.
Adaptation: Two Threes in a Row
This came through my Facebook feed this week (thank you, Debbie Shutt), and it was just too much fun not to share. Enjoy!