Building a productive environment with other teachers

Building a productive environment with other teachers

When entering a store, we typically know which door to enter through, where to make our purchase, and which door to exit through.  When entering a restaurant, we typically know which door to enter, whom to ask for a table (or where to get one ourselves) where/how to place our order, where/how to pay, etc.  If we cannot easily figure these answers out for ourselves, we know exactly who to ask to get the answer quickly.

Systems exist everywhere in our world.  Some systems are more official, documented, and/or sustainable than others.  For example, the fact that we all have to get a new sticker for our license plates each year, or that we can only park in that parking space between 12:00pm and 3:00pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays are official, documented, and mandated systems.  Figuring out who sits next to whom in the teacher’s lounge during lunch or which lane to drive in on a four-lane highway are less official systems, not documented at all, yet still fall under the umbrella of being somewhat “understood” by the general population. Typically, when systems are put in place it makes processes, routines, and outcomes more effective and efficient.

Schools are no exception.  There are many smooth-running systems that are currently in place in every school building.  Where and when to turn in grades, where and when to enter attendance, where and when and with what materials to show up for Institute Days, PLCs, staff meetings, etc.  These are established systems that help the adults in the building do their work of supporting youth more effectively and efficiently.  These routines, calendars, documents, communication trees, policies, processes, etc. were created, established, and then taught/documented so that they could be sustained by other adults for years to come.

Consider a teacher’s classroom as well as the entire school at large.  Do you/your school have effective systems in place?  For everything?  Chances are that some things are systematized and some things are more haphazard in nature.  If you were to aggregate data surrounding these different systems (or lack-there-of) you would probably find that when effective systems are in place there are more positive outcomes than when systems are lacking.

In the next 2 months, consider establishing 1-2 systems around something in your classroom or building where a system does not already exist?

  • Decide when you will make a positive contact home.
  • Decide when you will send someone to the office or handle it within the classroom
  • Decide how often your staff will acknowledge one another.
  • Decide how often your staff will acknowledge students.
  • Decide how often/when you will look at data in your classroom.
  • Determine are roles and tasks documented?  Could some of the work you do continue if you left your school building?  Or is there a lot that you do to help the school function that is not documented- thus no one would be able to pick up and support the youth where you left off.

Remember when you were little and you were one of the last three standing in a heated game of “Simon Says”.  It was down to the wire and you moved your hands to cover your ears while the other two stayed crouched down low touching their toes?  That moment…”ahhhh” (slow, loud sigh of defeat).  It feels so bad to be out of sync, not in line, off the beat with the rest of the group.  Systems help adults (and ultimately our students and families) to feel better, to have expectations, to have common language, and to work efficiently and effectively.  Everything we do in our work is made up of tiny little systems that come together to create the “powerful machine” that is our school.  The more systematized we can make things, we will ultimately be helping to create a more effective, efficient, and positive school culture.