Yesterday, I attended a professional development event for my new school.
As you know, after 23 years of being a classroom teacher, I have moved into administration.
My principal put together a team-building workshop where the teachers at my new school gathered to meet and learn some strategies to help them work better in collaborative teams.
It was a very informative day, and I learned a lot about different personality styles and the importance of working together as a team toward a common goal.
To be honest, I had heard a lot of this before. I can’t count how many workshops on team building I have been to.
The day ended with something that actually did surprise and impress me, however.
The principal had been talking about our school’s slogan for the school year – “Our students – one step ahead.” He also discussed our mantra for the day – “Big Team – Little Me.”
He then proceeded to open a box and hand out t-shirts to all the staff with the school name, the slogan, and the mantra printed on them.
He had enough for everyone in different sizes.
This was new to me.
In the 23 years of teaching, I had never been given a t-shirt from my administration. I’d always had to purchase a t-shirt from the PTA to show my school pride.
You may say, “Big deal, Sam. It’s only a t-shirt.”
And perhaps you’re right, but as a new administrator, I began to see my principal’s purpose in this gesture.
1. It was a gift from the administration. It demonstrated to the teachers that the administration appreciates them enough to spend some of the school’s funds on them.
2. The shirts united the teachers and administration as a team. They send a message of unity and pride, just like the uniforms of sports teams.
3. It was a constant reminder of our school’s vision. Having the slogan and mantra on the t-shirts serves as reminders of the common mission and goals of the staff. Each time a teacher wears that t-shirt, he/she will remember that they are part of a team with a purpose.
I quickly went and put on my new t-shirt, and I wore it proudly for the rest of the day.
I later found out that the teachers at this school and at a few other schools are routinely given school t-shirts as part of the beginning of every school year.
I felt a little cheated – 23 years worth.
It served to emphasize the difference in philosophies of the schools where I’ve taught and this new school where I find myself sitting in the administrator’s chair.
Teachers are too often allowed to work in isolation. They’re given a classroom, a set of students, and told to have at it. That’s how it was with me when I first started. My team was the four teachers who taught the core subjects to the same kids. We hardly ever collaborated with other members of the staff.
We were a collection of mini teams.
This year, I’m learning the power of collaboration.
Creating an atmosphere of “Big Team – Little Me” among the staff will go a long way to improve our efforts to collaborate and learn from each other.
When we learn from each other, we become better teachers, and more students learn.
To do this, however, we have to become a team – a force dedicated toward the goal of student learning.
Yes, it’s only a t-shirt, but to me it was more. It was a symbol of a unified team of teachers and administrators who are committed to a common goal, and I was proud to be part of that team.
I think any administrator who wants to have a united staff should begin by purchasing a t-shirt for each teacher. It is an investment that will have high returns throughout the year.
What do you think?
Does anybody else do this for their staff?
What other purposes does it serve?
I’d like to hear from any administrators out there.
Until next time,