Ronald GallimoreEveryone's a teacher to someone (John Wooden)

Helping troubled teacher teams learn to collaborate

In the Fall, 2012 issue of The Learning Principal, Dr. Brad Ermeling offers up sage advice for helping troubled teacher teams. To illustrate his point, he uses the example of a middle school team that never seemed to get beyond arguing and debating to doing something. The principal was stumped. Everything tried had failed. Calling in national experts to conduct a workshop had not helped. Team building exercises hadn’t helped. Brad took a very different approach. Instead of working on their “collaboration skills” he asked the team if they wanted to stop fighting. Yes, they all did. Ok, he said let’s start right now my first day on your campus working on something your students are struggling to learn. Let’s end today with agenda for tackling one problem you all agree needs a solution, and getting some better teaching. The principal pitched in and told the team to give this work a priority; she freed up more time for them to work on developing and trying out some lessons, by relieving them of some other work. A few months later some still did not like each other very much, but by focusing on helping their students they were able to put aside their personal conflicts and work on improving their teaching.Together. There’s more that Brad and the principal did, spelled out in his article. But here’s a point worth emphasizing. Brad was operating on the principle that behavior change often precedes attitude change. Instead of working on their conflicted attitudes, he got them working to solve a common problem. Sweating and struggling their way through to better teaching and improved student learning bonded a fighting group into a cooperating team. For more information read Brad’s article .

Ermeling, B. (2012, Fall). Breathe new life into collaboration: five principles for reviving problematic groups. The Learning Principal, Vol. 8, # 1, pps 1, 4-6.