Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Teaching as a TEAM

As I’ve embarked on my journey as an “teacher who blogs” I’ve found my brain filling with future topics I want to write about, with many being placed on the back burner for posts to come. However, before 2014 ends, there’s one more topic I’ve hoped to get to this year – the importance and power of a team teaching approach in a Kindergarten atmosphere.

If I had to select one single factor that leads to our daily successes in our classroom, it would be this – a true team approach. My initial team member is the Early Childhood Educator I work alongside day in and day out (and I am so very lucky – she is passionate, knowledgeable, kind, flexible – I could go on all day!), but my vision of a team approach extends outside the walls of the classroom. I am lucky to find myself a member of a team that includes the other Kindergarten teachers and ECEs in the school, other grade teachers, our admin, and yes, teachers and educators from around the world (thanks Twitter!). Approaching the job of Kindergarten teacher (one that I firmly believe is so much fun, but also highly challenging!) from a team approach really only makes our lives easier. Trying to tackle everything all on your own (Planning! Set up! Assessment! Documentation! Snowpants! Accidents!) is truly impossible – something will have to give, and as far as I’m concerned you are then doing a disservice to your students.

I spoke earlier about how lucky I am to be part of the great team I am part of. I don’t want to lead you on however and make you think that we magically all fell into the same place and all happen to share the exact same ideas about education. We are, in fact, all quite different and bring our own unique perspectives to the table. We do (and this is something I'd argue for all educators) all at the core have the same desire and end goal (to be the best educators we can be). However, the reality is that we also bring different experiences, education, and philosophies to the classroom. But this is what I want to get to – rather than throw our hands in the air and say “We can’t work together! We have different ideas!” (which sadly I see and hear from other teaching teams more often than I’d like to admit), we’ve embraced these differences, which I feel is key to our success as a team. We all know there is no singular “right” way to teach and as I said before, nobody can do it alone. By reframing the differences between you and your team members as opportunities for growth, you’re ensuring that you’re never stuck in a rut, rather continuing to learn about other ways to approach early childhood education. Plus sometimes having to defend your beliefs about education is a healthy thing and a good reminder of why you think what you think and do what you do. Whenever I feel stuck about how to extend a learning centre or how to interpret some documentation, I turn to the teachers and ECEs I work alongside with at school and suddenly they may comment on something I totally missed or encourage me to try something I hadn’t considered. 

This year, Shelagh (ECE) and I were quick to highlight our strengths and weaknesses and have gotten great about allowing each other to take the lead (my strength tends to be big picture whole group learning, and she excels at small group centres and extensions for learning). As a result, our program is richer and we’re both being used to our full potential. We also pay attention while the other takes the lead and pick up tips from each other so that we can continue our areas for growth. As far as I’m concerned, NONE of this would have happened if we stopped at the “we’re too different to work together!” excuse. In some ways, we are different, yes. But in so many ways (and more are uncovered everyday!) we want the exact same thing. It’s every team’s responsibility to find their differences, not run from them - embrace them, and structure their program accordingly. As I said earlier, I think it’s really enriched our program and it takes a lot of power to admit that you may not have all the answers yourself. But trust me, your students need teachers that can listen to each other, share what they have to offer, and work together.

Last year at the Ontario Reggio Association conference, I had the great delight and pleasure to hear educators from Reggio speak about their practice. Something that really stuck with me was how all educators sat down weekly to discuss their documentation of current inquires and provide suggestions to each other. The team I’m part of at the school level (three Kindergarten classrooms) have committed to doing this in the new year. I can’t wait to see how this further extends not only our team approach, but the successes students reach in our respective classrooms.

My message to other teachers (and myself!) is that differences between you and your team members are not negative things, but rather something to be celebrated. They are chances to teach each other, learn from each other, challenge your own preconceptions, and employ perspectives you may not have come to on your own. Having a team approach opens us up to alternate ideas, viewpoints, questions, and extensions. Essentially it’s giving us extra hands, eyes, brains, and hearts – things Kindergarten teachers need in bulk!

To close, one of my go to sayings – “Teamwork makes the dream work!”

And oh yes, - Happy New Year!

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