| Are You An Effective Team?
Up to a point, in the film Oblivion, Tom Cruise and Andrea Riseborough are an effective team. Until the wheels fall off and Tom begins to sweat and Andrea starts to frown a bit. The question, "Are you an effective team?" pops up in the script and it's a worthy one to ask.I'd ask it at the start of every school day and keep asking about effectiveness throughout. And I'd stop using 'Outstanding', 'Good' and 'Requires Improvement' (when does anyone stop requiring improvement?). They are divisive and describe only end points, products, final states. "Are we being effective?" and its sister, "How are we being effective?" continually challenge our process of improvement. They keep us moving forwards.
The You Effect
To contemplate your effectiveness, define your 'effect'. What is it that makes you the teacher you are? What's unique about the learning you create and the journey you're on with your students?
Naoimh Campbell (Teach First participant) and Becky Mukiza (her school mentor) teach Year 5 at Braunstone Community Primary School in Leicester. Here they talk about their 'effects' and the synergy of working together:
The Mukiza Effect (by Becky Mukiza, Braunstone Community Primary School)
I'm an experienced teacher and I run my class like a business. I was once told I had 'The Mukiza Effect' and here's how it works:
My classroom ‘model’ is wholly reliant on the participation of each and every child. We all have a role, they are empowered to take charge of their own learning. I see myself as ‘The Company Director’, ‘The Facilitator’; the children have a responsibility to promote their own learning by becoming an active part of our journey.
This starts as soon as my classroom doors open. Casual check-ins remind the children that they are very much ‘on my radar’. This is followed by a morning briefing during which we have an open discussion about the class agenda for the day. Then I act as a Human Resource Manager, I direct staff (including myself) to hold mini ‘Performance Management’ meetings with each child during the course of the week. During these meeting the child leads a conversation about their learning, what direction it needs to take and how I can help them to make it move faster so that they can achieve more. We act as learning consultants for our children.
This shared class vision and focus on child initiated learning is prevalent throughout the rest of the school day. Occasionally in maths I allow the children to choose their own activity. They can sharpen their mental maths skills, focus on problem solving and reasoning or work through further examples in an area of maths they feel less confident in. I direct these children, to clear up their misconceptions, to boost their confidence and their ensure progress.
I firmly believe that this only works because the children understand their role as an independent learner and are empowered enough to choose what they need to do to maximise progress.
In my class everyone is someone and everyone is part of something.
The Campbell Effect (by Naoimh Campbell, Braunstone Community Primary School)
I've been teaching 6 months and it's been a gritty ride (see my article here). Becky is a great mentor and the idea of having an 'effect' has helped me to consolidate my skills, my targets and my sense of who I am in the classroom. So, for what it's worth, here's my emerging Campbell Effect:
Though only a few meters down the corridor from Becky, my classroom is a very different (but no less productive) place. We see ourselves as a learning community. Becky runs a business, I run a cooperative. They're different but equal. The children are very much aware of their strengths and their limitations, they are also aware of mine and my support staff’s. The atmosphere tends to be calm, informal with a lot of laughter. It lacks the permanent buzz of next door’s hive of activity, however, the children use their strengths to help each other become confident, productive learners.
We strive to empower the children with the tools to think for themselves, to have the confidence to venture into learning independently, whilst safe in the knowledge there are 23 people waiting for them to succeed but also ready (and willing) to build them back up when they fail. Yes, we talk openly and productively about failure. We sympathise, empathise and utilise our failure so that it will become tomorrow’s success story.
We are also open when we are struggling emotionally as well as academically, we support, nurture and encourage one another. Every school competition, contest or initiative is a chance for us to win or succeed. From attendance to reading races we are proud of our reputation and a win for one of us is always a win for all.
One model we have chosen to replicate from Becky's next door is child-lead conversations about learning. These are informal in nature but the aims and outcomes are the same. These conversations have had a huge impact on the children’s progress.
In my class, nobody slips through the net, everyone has a champion.
The Mukampbell Effect (by us both)
From two very different classrooms come two very different teachers. We have a strong professional relationship; we are partner teachers, mentor/mentee and friends. One of us is experienced; one of us just starting out; both of us committed to our children. We have a shared vision and ethos, but a difference in execution, and we believe that this is the key to our successful working relationship.
We are brave enough to challenge each other, to take other’s ideas and make them our own - or to admit when we have made a terrible call. We have a positive-error-culture in year 5! We teach each other’s classes on a regular basis because we genuinely believe that we each have something positive to offer our children.
It is coming to the end of the Spring Term and, safe to say, we adore each and every child in our year group. They are bright, feisty, imaginative and eager to learn.
In our year group, everyone is someone and part of something; nobody slips through the net and everyone has a champion.
Take the Time
You've a million and one other things to do. Planning, marking, data, meetings. But for many of us there is a holiday coming up. Take an hour or so out to think and write. What is your effect? What makes you the teacher you are? And if you like, send it to me and I'll publish it here. Then we can really start getting to grips with effective teaching. We can be an effective team.