How to be part of our team
Assume there is a reason.
When you assume there is a reason, you are meeting your student where he is and addressing his underlying needs with kindness and discretion. The ideal teacher assumes their* student is not a blank slate, that his past experiences in education contribute to his understanding and comfort, and that he is trying to be on your team to the extent that he knows how. Believing that your students, like all people, want to grow and succeed is the first step towards helping them do so.
Build on strengths.
The teacher who builds on strengths understands that they, and their students, don’t have to be equally good at everything. Rather than being critical of others’ weaknesses, this teacher helps to identify and celebrate the unique contributions of each team member, even when those strengths are not tied to traditional academic subjects or extracurricular activities.
Cut a path.
Sometimes following a set procedure to solve a problem is problematic in itself. Learning is an individual process of growth and change which doesn’t always fit into an established protocol. When you cut a path, you are focusing on first on the result you want and finding a more satisfying route to reach that goal. This teacher is willing to collaborate with students to find creative ways to achieve success and is willing to question underlying assumptions that create obstacles to growth.
Share your truth.
Authentic and genuine, this teacher is honest with themselves about their feelings, goals, and struggles. They are forthright about the responsibilities they are willing to take on and where their true interests lie. Rather than creating scapegoats or apologizing for their preferences, they own their choices and are true to themselves. They know that they do their best work when they are doing what is most fun for them, and they encourage others (including their students) to do the same.
Strive to catch the ball.
When you strive to catch the ball, you acknowledge the importance of your role on the team. Sometimes, being part of the team means doing something new or participating even if you don’t know exactly how. A teacher who strives to catch the ball knows that being a positive contribution to the team means trying, even when it’s hard or foreign.
Learn when to wait.
Many times, we balk when someone says, “Do this, right now.” The teacher who can learn when to wait can read the room and respond to students’ individual and collective readiness for information, instruction, or correction. This teacher knows that the right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing and uses their authority to support rather than to control.
Be a friend.
Good teachers have boundaries that leave them unafraid to connect with their students as people. In being a friend, a teacher demonstrates empathy and compassion, supporting a student’s emotional, social, and academic needs. They respect their students’ boundaries and help them to learn to respect the boundaries of others. Playful and open, this teacher fosters a spirit of unity among team members.
Here, we have explicitly expressed how our teachers can best serve our students. However, these seven actions also apply to the way we serve our students' families, as well as the way we relate to each other as colleagues.
*The lack of a gender-neutral pronoun in English causes all kinds of problems, doesn't it? Rather than twist into a pretzel to use perfect grammar, we rely here at times on good ol' "they." Any use of he or she or other gender-specific pronouns is random.