Teacher Tinker Time Reflection: Teamwork and Collaboration

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Yesterday I hosted a Teacher Tinker Time. It has been quite some time since we last had one due to snow days, busy schedules, and finding time that works. The plan is to do this once a week and you can read all about the goals of Teacher Tinker Time in my previous posts.

Today we used LEGO Build To Express kits to build four models based on the idea of Teamwork. This is an important topic for our staff as we continue to work together to foster teamwork and collaboration between ourselves as well as in our classrooms. This tinker time did have some relation to our classrooms, but in a very non threatening, fun, play like feel.

I took pictures of the builds for you to view. These were all taken once the last model was built so each image actually has four creations included. I ran three sessions of this activity and what was amazing was how nobody repeated the same type of build, but some ideas were shared over and over.

Here are some ideas that stood out to me from the sharing. During the process we are given 3 minutes to build a model based on four questions. After the three minutes we are able to explain our build. We are not allowed to use pieces once they have been used and the pieces must come from the kit.

  • Diversity – over and over again people shared out that the diversity of our staff is a real asset. Some shared through various builds that their best teams were when they had a very diverse team to work with and in the end they had a really powerful group to challenge one another. It was also shared time and time again that we need more time connecting with more staff. We simply don’t do it enough due to personal reasons or because of the schedule and the way our day operates. The key here is to put the excuses aside and make it happen. What can we do to connect more? As an instructional coach and working with everyone I have seen the amazing traits of everyone and now the challenge is how to bring them together?
  • Help – this was a key idea once again. Working to help each overcome obstacles, helping to understand the strengths of one another, helping to pull people out of a rut, and helping to bring people on board. Some people are amazing at help. They are the glue to keeps teams together. They may not have the big ideas and may not want to lead, but without their help, then things fall apart quickly. Not only is it important to have leaders and big ideas, but we must remember to thank and acknowledge those who help the teams stay together. This is true for staff as well as students. Recognize these people and make sure they know how important they are.
  • Idea Tank – there were many words for this idea, but time and time again we saw builds where people were working for this main idea. What is the goal of the team? What is the goal of the project? How can the team work to achieve that idea tank? As teams in education, when it comes to staff whether working as a department or a house system make sure you have a goal. This might alleviate the wasted minutes of meetings. What is the main goal you are trying to achieve? Do students know the end result? Do they have a framework or map to give them some direction with enough freedom to chart their own course?
  • Perfect Teamwork – one question asked for the perfect class project where everyone achieved perfection in teamwork. Time and time again teachers built models where they were not in charge. They put their “teacher”hat aside and let the students take the lead. The teacher was on the side to give guidance and structure, but was not up front and center. The key here is that we all know this is a way to teach, but do we actually do it?

There were so many other amazing ideas. I wish I had recorded the discussions, but I think people don’t open up as much as they would have without a camera. This was a great Teacher Tinker Time. I hope that more teachers continue to join and be part of this little activity once a week to get a breath of fresh air.

Here are some other cool ideas that were shared that are still in my  mind.

  • Safety Net – Students and teachers need to know there is a safety net where they know it is okay to go out on a limb to challenge the comfort zones we have created.
  • Axle – we need to have an axle that binds the people in PBL mode and others in traditional mode. Neither one is the perfect answer, but collectively as a staff we need to have this happy medium where we must all come together and agree that certain things will be done. We have to connect as a staff and be on the same page. This creates a culture that we are missing right now. It is a culture missing in many schools as teachers have different goals and expectations. We need a common thread to have successful culture.
  • Sometimes where we are is actually the right place to be. The grass might appear greener on the other side, but actually where we are is the place to be. I know from a personal level this is so true after I have had time to get out and visit schools. The grass is pretty green right here in Bettendorf!
  • Those that are comfortable with change and challenging our thinking and systems need to pull the others along. Instead of thinking we are better or complaining, we need to grab hold and bring the others along.
  • Family – we have lost that feel of family among ourselves as a staff. Some miss the days when you were really connected to a team/department/house. There is just not that connection anymore. It does exist in pockets, but many don’t have that feeling. How do we work to connect more and make stronger ties? IMG_8724As you think about teamwork what are your thoughts? How do we achieve perfect teamwork and collaboration as educators? in our classroom?

Thank you to all staff that showed up for Teacher Tinker Time. Already working on the next one.

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