Saving Summer: Go, team!
No, really…go…wait…stay…come back!
Teaching is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting, which is why, until we get some other issues solved, I don’t see U.S. schools going to a year-round schedule anytime soon. I am luxuriating that it’s a weekend during summer break: for some reason, this feels especially decadent– a weekend AND a break?! Well, I just got home from InstructureCon and tomorrow through Thursday I’ll be driving over an hour away to a STEM fellowship through WABS. I don’t mind have structure and purpose during my summer days, but they are precious and dwindling fast. And there’s still so much to do.
I wanted to follow up to my question about teams, (teams going, coming back, going, and coming back)–I am allowed to pursue these questions about the effectiveness and desire for teams that are not writ large: not all teams are effective. Just because I am craving to be on good, supportive localized team again (not a PLC: those serve other purposes) doesn’t mean they didn’t come fraught with issues and dysfunction. I’ll define a “team” in this context as the cohort of cross-content teachers who share the same cohort of students. The team is usually made up of a Science, Social Studies, and ELA teacher, and sometimes Math. The elective and physical education teachers are included in the big student concern meetings/discussions, but the ‘grassroots’ level support for students comes from the trio.
Over the years (when we had teams) I was fortunate to work with superstars: friends/colleagues who supported my questions, and we worked together to support students. We appreciated and valued our different styles and personalities, and kept ego out of the equation: it was a godsend when each of us recognized that one student may prefer one teacher over the other, but kept a united front with students; we told students it was perfectly okay to like one of us, but we all had their back. We could meet with individual students, share parent contact duties, (which as a parent is awesome not to receive three or five phone calls about a child, but one), and we felt a comradery that modeled friendship and respect to our students.
When teams are not functional, teammates don’t communicate, they undermine, form opinions without questioning and probing, and passive-aggressively send the message that other teachers on the team are incompetent, etc. Not. Cool. And yes, we’ve all experienced a coworker like that.
But in this day and age of collaboration and teams, many introverted teachers are ducking out. Well, introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, we’re all feeling brain-drain.
“The term “introversion” can mean a variety of different things in different contexts. Carl Jung defined it as an orientation through “subjective psychic contents,” while Scientific American contends that introversion is more aptly described as a lessened “sensitivity to rewards in the environment.” It’s generally accepted, however, that as Stephen A. Diamond gracefully describes it, “[Extraversion and introversion] are two extreme poles on a continuum which we all occupy.””
So how do we navigate the need for collaboration, good teams, and keeping our own psychic energy bright and healthy? One good resource is Elena Aquilar. She writes books and excellent article about teams, coaching, and coaching teams.
Introverts struggle with extroverts. Extroverts sometimes assume that when an introvert is being quiet, they’re A. Not listening B. Not smart (and then get some patronizing explanation) C. Don’t even notice. But extroverts aren’t bad: sometimes extroverts see the big picture quickly and have the ability to share, the exuberance and passion that comes out physically and verbally. Introverts are awesome because they garner the slow-simmer, deeper thoughts. For me, the best way for both kinds of personalities to work on teams well is the basics rules for any relationship: learn to listen, speak when necessary, and be kind.
And: advocate for yourself.
If the collaboration or process isn’t working, it should always be acceptable to say that a discussion needs to be shelved for a later time.
Extroverts: put your bullhorn away. Introverts: pick up the mic. Let’s all support each other so none of us burn out.