It’s early March and in some parts of the country the daffodils are starting to bloom, creating waves of bobbing yellow heads that stand out sharply against the greening grass. However, it’s all white in my neck of the woods with snow still piled up two feet high.
No matter the scenery, early spring is a great time for your team to pause and reflect on your progress so far.
There are still at least two or three solid months left before the end of the year rituals and festivities commence. Take time to review what the team has accomplished so far and to prioritize your collaborative efforts for the rest of the year so you can make the best use of this block of instructional time. Focus on those activities that will help your students the most and make sure the team “cylinders” fire in a coordinated and efficient manner.
One aspect of a team spring tune-up ought to include an assessment of how well the teachers are connecting with each of the students. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourselves:
- Does each of our students have an adult advocate on the team—someone who knows the student well and with whom the student feels comfortable talking?
- Do we incorporate student interests in our instruction?
- Does each of our students feel valued?
Here’s an activity for Common Planning Time to help you assess how well you are connecting with your students:
- Write every student’s name on an index card.
- Spread the cards out on a table, name side up.
- Individually, note on the card the interests of the student. For example: Johnny—snowmobiling and water skiing, Maria—singing and composing
- When each teacher has finished noting what s/he knows about individual student interests, step back and look at the array of cards.
- Are there some students everyone seems to know?
- Who are the students with blank cards?
- Do the students with blank cards share any characteristics? What do these shared characteristics tell us about our team? Are there some things we need to address?
- Low grades?
- Behavior issues?
- Special ed?
- Very quiet?
- Eat lunch alone?
- Create a plan. How will you connect with each of those students whose cards are blank?
- Informal conversations?
- Advisory, homeroom or class activity?
- Eat lunch with them?
- Conversations with parents?
- How might we use student interests to connect with our curricula?
- Set a date to review your progress in making personal connections with these students.
We know that relationships are a key element is a student’s motivation and achievement in school. Sometimes connections naturally occur among students and staff, but there are always those students left out. It is imperative that middle grades team teachers be intentional in building relationships:
- Student to student
- Staff to student
- Staff to families
Taking time to check on the status of the connections between you and your students is a first step in a Team Spring Tune Up . Do not let any of your students leave the team at the end of the year without feeling they were known, appreciated, and valued by their teachers.