By Teachers, For Teachers
Summer vacation has officially started and yet I find I am already thinking about the school year ahead. After spending a year subbing in various schools and grades, I just signed a contract for a permanent position as a fourth grade teacher. To say I am excited would be an understatement.
While I'm thinking a lot about organizing and getting back into my own classroom, I have mostly been thinking about how to mesh into my new surroundings and becoming a member of the teaching team!
It is not easy being the “new kid on the block”. While I was accepted and treated kindly while subbing at this school, there was also the thought that I was “only a sub” and so I felt a little distant from my co-workers. Not knowing I was going to be offered a position and returning, I kept myself guarded a bit, not wanting to share too much of myself.
Now I am one of them. I was chosen to play on their team and I am thrilled. I want to excel not only in my classroom but in the eyes of my co-workers. To someday obtain the MVT award (you know, Most Valuable Teacher).
So what makes a great team player?
Nothing screams team player more than someone who is reliable, trustworthy, and available. I know it is hard to be all of those things in the midst of grades, observations, and so much more, however; having the reputation of someone who gets his/her work done, meets deadlines, and follows through is so beneficial.
I used to be a quiet little mouse (hard to believe but true). I would sit in meetings and just let others speak on my behalf. The other teachers were smarter, more experienced, and more organized than I (so I thought). Not true.
Your thoughts, opinions, and expressions matter. In the middle of a intense game, do we sit on the bench and just whisper, “go team”? NO, we shout, get excited, and encourage the players on- this is your job too!
Ok, maybe you should not shout and definitely don't wave pom poms but you get the idea. Your job is to submit ideas and plans. To get excited! And yes, it is even ok to disagree. When you do disagree, just do so in a respectful manner.
Open Your Ears & Listen
How many times have we told our students to turn on their listening ears? Now, it's your turn.
Listen to your co-workers. Respect their ideas and opinions. You don't have to agree, but you should always respect and consider their ideas without engaging in a argument. After all, you (hopefully) share the same goal - educating your students in the best possible way.
Ouch! I don't like this one. I used to run cross country in high school and so often the coach would tell me to slow down or speed up my pace. My time was too slow, or my breathing was not as it should be to maximize my running time. I would get so frustrated and think to myself, “If this is so easy, why isn't HE out here doing it?”
After placing sixth in a meet, I understood that what I felt was a personal attack on my abilities was really a method to help me improve, which I did. I never placed before he started “adjusting” the way I thought I needed to run.
Teaching is no different. It is a skill. There is always ALWAYS room for improvement. Listen to what is being said. Breath. Think about it. And if necessary, change.
Be a Problem Solver
This is my favorite. I love to sit in a group and problem solve, especially in a room filled with many different ideas. Take the initiative to tackle the problem without pointing fingers to where the problem may have originated. We sometimes like to do that. While problems may be easier to point out than to solve, nothing good comes from that.
We all have a specific gift or strength that we bring to the table. I have research skills, maybe I can research some methods to solve the current problem. Maybe you are great at planning events, and you can rally parents or staff members together as a solution. No contribution is too small.
In every school, there is the one teacher everyone refers to as Miss Crabby-Pants. Don't be a crabby-pants! Smile.
Even if you are having a hard day (or two or three), take a moment to breathe deeply and smile. We have all been there! Taking your frustration out on your co-workers does nothing but create even greater frustration. Talk about it and express yourself but remember to smile! At 3:00, the day is over and you can leave (though don't forget to come back the next day!)
Be the one to set an example for the other teachers. Let them say, "Wow, if she can smile and she has little Tommy, I can certainly make it through the day!"
Do not engage in gossip with other teachers, administration, and definitely NOT parents or students. When my students come in complaining about Mr. So-and-So from gym class, I tell them what happens in gym class stays in gym class. They are not permitted to speak unkindly or disrespectfully about another teacher in my class or in my presence.
This is a standing rule of which I do not bend. There are always two sides to the story; always! This is the same for parents as well. If Mrs. So and So wants to talk about Mrs. Third Grade, I tell her she should have this conversation with Mrs. Third Grade and not me. You can be polite certainly, but don't engage in this activity because it never benefits you.
Besides, would you want Mrs. Third Grade talking to your parent about you? I wouldn't.
Go Beyond the Call of Duty
I know some teachers that are as bad as the kids. As soon as the bell rings for dismissal, they are out the door!
I have no idea how they do it because I struggle just to leave a half hour after dismissal to go pick up my kids! I am not saying you should live at the school. I know teachers who do that too, but don't be a clock watcher. Volunteer to do an extra duty (if you can), pick up a task or two for another teacher who seems a bit overwhelmed, or be willing to lend a hand even if it means staying an extra twenty minutes.
I'm also not saying over stretch yourself. I have done that and learned that a stressed teacher is NOT a good teacher. Regardless, be willing to move outside your classroom from time to time.
Don't Be Afraid to Try New Things or & Ask for Help
I am really not good at this, but I am working on it. Be willing to learn new skills. My previous school did not have a SMART board. This school does, so I am totally out of my comfort zone.
But instead of worrying or planning not to use it much, I am excited to learn and become a skilled SMART boarder. I am a kinetic learner, so I intend to go in a few times over the summer and get some hands-on practice with the SMART board. This is how I learn best. I will also seek help from our technology teacher as she will be in the building most of the summer.
Try new things. Learn new things. Teach new things. It is so amazing to have something new to add to your strengths and abilities.
Enjoy Your Team
My new teammates are all from different walks of life. There are single teachers, married with children teachers, and teachers who are grandparents. They are each so unique in their personalities and styles. Each of them adds to the collage of creativity that makes up our school.
I am looking forward to getting to know them, learn from them, share ideas with them, and celebrate the success of our students with them.
By the way, I have already discovered one teacher loves frogs as much as I do. We will definitely be talking!
That wraps up my tips to being a great team player, hopefully even MVT! What tips can you share to help others be a great team player?