Thursday, January 1, 2015

Two Ways to Build Comaraderie in Your School

 By Jill Jenkins

Most schools today need to collaborate in departments to cover the new curriculum of the common core, they need to collaborate as a school to make certain computer labs, library and other resources are shared by all equally, and they need to collaborate as a school to make sure that students needs and problems are properly addressed.  Since teachers often are highly independent with strong personalities, they are attracted to teaching because the concept of running their own class appeals to them.  To command thirty to forty students requires an assertive personality.  The task of the administration is to take these strong willed individuals and help them work collaborative in teams.  How do they do this?

One more technique is to take all of your staff to a lodge in the mountains and give them in-services classes at a retreat.  It is highly effective because away from the day-to-day problems in a school, teachers can renew their dedication with a new vision. Furthermore, the retreat can serve to improve the school. If that is your goal have the faculty identify five to ten areas that school needs to improve upon: attendance, test scores, morale, etc. Divide the faculty into task force teams comprised of teachers from a variety of disciplines who identify and suggest an action plan to solve a problem or improve a situation.  They present their suggestions to the entire staff who vote on implementation of the their solution.  The staff then has ownership of the problems and solutions in the school and can not blame the administration.  Throughout the school year, the task force teams meet to evaluate progress and make adjustments to the implemented programs  The advantage of taking your team off campus is when the staff is not working on solving problems, they should be enjoying social activities together like dining or taking a dip in the pool. Playing and working together helps create a team. The positive side of this solution is it forces the school to work collaboratively to solve problems; thereby, the entire school takes ownership of the problems and the solutions.  This should reduce blaming the administration for problems in the school.  The downside is it is expensive.  If you have a large corporation or a benefactor who is willing to flip the bill, go for it, but for most schools that is far beyond the means.  What is a cheaper alternative?

One method is to create a faculty assembly.  Any coach will tell you that having a common goal that requires the cooperative effort of all of the players does more than win a game; it creates a family.  When the success of the project requires the interactive cooperation of all team, everyone benefits.  I know that it is possible to throw together an assembly with individual acts of the five faculty members who really have talent: singing, dancing, and playing a musical instrument.  That is not the kind of assembly that building cooperative attitudes. 
  Silly acting scenes and musical numbers that involve as many teachers, counselors and administrators as possible will earn more bang for the buck.  First, if the teachers are having fun together, they will enjoy working together.  Second, if the teachers are being silly, the students will have an opportunity to see their teachers as people. That will improve their relationship with their teachers.  Third, working under a deadline, will demonstrate to the staff that they can create something as a team. For example, the two pictures above and below depict a scene of an unruly classroom and an incompetent substitute teacher. The cast is comprised of teachers from a variety of departments, counselors and administrators. Working outside the comfort of the individual departments builds cooperative attitudes.

If you want to build cooperation within each department, have each department create a presentation. Some example include: by the Language Arts Department: "Lame Excuses", and "Accelerated Reading in Rap" and from the Counseling Department: "Planking".  One year the Language Arts teachers collected excuses that their students had used during the year.  Then, three teachers wearing black clothing and black berets read the excuses like Poets of the Beat Generation:




Megan: Our lives are so busy; our lives are so full
Is it any wonder we have time for assignments or school.
Becca: It wasn’t my fault.
Jill: I didn’t know we turned it in.
  Megan: I finished a few days ago, but I forgot to turn it in.
  Becca: I am not sure why, but please, I need the credit.
  Jill: I completely forgot because I was absent way back when we did this.
  Megan: Mi es mui perezosa.
  Becca: I didn’t want to do it. Much rather read.
  Jill: I didn’t know it was missing.
  Megan: My mom grounded me from doing homework!
  Becca: It wasn’t finished when it was due
Jill: I was a slacker.
  Megan: I suck and will end up flipping burgers.
  Becca: Well, my dog ate it.
  Jill: I lost it, and then I found it!
  Megan: I was booked this weekend.
  Becca: I got mauled by a zebra while on an African Safari.
  Jill: I am a very lazy person.
  Megan: I left it to the last day.
  Becca: I lost my paper in my backpack.
  Jill: You didn’t tell me I had to have my reading chart signed.
  Megan: My printer wasn’t working.
  Becca: My computer crashed.
  Jill: Don’t know.
  Megan: I got into a ninja fight with Chuck Norris, and I won!
  Becca: It caught me off guard.
  Jill: I forgot about it, and I hardly had time because of football.
  Megan: Just plain late!
  Becca: I forgot it was due, so I hurried and tried to finish it…but I didn’t.
  Jill: Abducted by aliens.
  Megan: I.D.K.
  Becca: I had to help Batman save the world.
  Jill: I was really busy this week.
  Megan: No idea.
  Becca: Shrug
  Jill: Stolen notebook.
  Megan: Bahhh!!
  Becca: I wanted to!
  Jill: I think I forgot to turn it in.
  Megan: I turned it in, and now it’s gone!
  Becca: I was helping my mom with the dishes.
  Jill: Didn’t work hard enough to finish.
  Megan: I don’t even know! It was an off day.
  Becca: My locker won’t open.
  Jill: My mom lost my reading log.
  Megan: But my mother signed this reading chart.
  Becca: My mom cleaned out my backpack.
  Jill: I left it in my locker.
  Megan: Was I suppose to have this signed?
  Becca: My locker is broken.
  Jill: Last night, I couldn’t do it because I’m really busy.  I had to go to practice.  I had to eat dinner.  I had LaCrosse and . . .
  Megan: I don’t know.
  Becca: Your web pages says it isn’t due until tomorrow.
  Jill: But I felt sick yesterday.
  Megan: My clothes got stolen.
  Becca: Someone jacked my folder.
  Jill: I forgot.   Can I have another day?
  Megan: I put it in my binder and now its not there.
  Becca: It’s because we can’t have backpacks.
  Jill: My grandmother is in the hospital.  Can I have another day?
  Megan: It is due today?
  Becca: There was a football game on T.V. last year.
  Jill: I don’t have to do this because I was at Mesa.
  Megan: I don’t have to do this because I was at orchestra…so I’m excused.
  Becca: My printer was out of ink.
  Jill: My internet was down.
  Megan: I forgot my my-access username.
  Becca: I’m not allowed to use my computer at my home.
   Jill: It won’t work on my computer.
  Mega: I turned it in and you lost it.
  Becca: It’s March Madness.
  Jill: Do you have any no name?
  Megan: I was absent and you didn’t give it to me.
  Becca: You gave the assignment a month ago, but I was absent yesterday.
  Jill: I know I was absent one of those days.
  Megan: I didn’t know.  You didn’t tell me. 
  Becca: So, I can’t see the board from my desk.
  Jill: You didn’t tell us when it was due.
  Megan: You didn’t remind me yesterday.
  Becca: Why do we have to do this anyway?
  Jill: I lost my book?
  Mega: It wasn’t my phone.
  Becca: My third period teacher took it.
Jill: Is there any extra credit I can do?
Megan: How can I get my C to an A?
Becca: I didn’t know it was a test.
Jill: Can we retake this test?
Megan: I am really sad that I can’t make it to class, but can I still take the AR test.
Megan, Becca and Jill: What assignment?
Caleb:  Suck it up, Princess.
     Students love hearing their own words recited as poetry by their-not-so-shy teachers.  However, it is even better if all of the members of the department take an active part in the production as in the next two creations.
Another successful creation was "Accelerated Reading in Rap.This was written by one of the teachers, Mrs. Larsen and her brother who recorded the lyrics.  The rest of department participated in the filming and I edited it together. 


 Capitalizing on what is trending is another way to increase your students' interest in the assembly and can be fun for the staff members.  The following movie was created by the counseling staff at my school with their secretaries: "Planking"

     Whether your school decides to use technology to enhance your assembly or present it on stage, the students will love it and the faculty and staff will develop a strong bond.  This spring before you begin your testing, you might want to give your students and staff a chance to bond by creating a faculty assembly.
     If you want to increase your staff's social interaction at a retreat or something as silly as a faculty assembly, you will increase their ability to be an effective team. If you have the time and the money to do more than one kind of teaming activity, the effect will even be greater.  These types of activities may seem like a huge waste of time to some teachers, but the reality is that a school that does not function as a team will pull itself apart.  Teachers will transfer to other school because they are not happy. The academic program will not be as strong as it could be when teachers are sharing and cooperating with each other. Try building your school community through activities that require the entire staff to cooperate with each other.