There Is No “We” in “Team” – But There Should Be!

I admit that as a teacher I have wanted to “own the show” and be the primary onstage presence in the classroom. After all, I am the supposed “expert” and people are paying good money to get what I have – or so I would like to think. But that is actually an ideal that does not fly with the needs of our students today.

Photo courtesy of Teak Sato on Wikimedia
Photo courtesy of Teak Sato on Wikimedia

I have learned to give up my “sage on the stage” mentality and trade it in for a more effective strategy of “guide on the side.” In other words, it is not about me and it is not about the students; rather, it is about a “we” situation that more and more begins to look like a true team.

If you have read my prior posts, you know that I quote Maryellen Weimer quite a bit. Why? Because she rocks my world as a teacher and forces me to think outside the box. When referring to that team environment, she notes…

This is not my class; it is not your class; this is our class, and together we are responsible for what does and doesn’t happen here. (Learner Centered Teaching, p. 101)

I got to thinking about this concept in a recent blog I read about teamwork in the classroom. The article says…

A good team player:

  • Works toward the understood goals of the team
  • Contributes to an informal, comfortable, and tension-free work environment
  • Is enthusiastic about working with the team
  • Follows through on commitment
  • Takes pride in the team’s work
  • Shows interest in other team members’ achievements
  • Readily accepts feedback on performance
  • Encourages others to achieve at high levels
  • Is able to stay focused on team tasks
  • Openly communicates with others in the group
  • Is sensitive to the feelings of other group members
  • Is able to resolve conflict effectively
  • Is eager to try new approaches.

And reading this it got me to thinking. What am I doing in my classroom to ensure each student has the opportunity to learn and be a good teammate? And why is this important? Because our world today is about creativity, connection, and collaboration, not sitting, listening, and regurgitating. Learning how to listen to differing thoughts of peers, expressing valuable insights, and working toward a common goal is a skill set that is not naturally inherent within our students.

Sure, I do believe that participating in sports also teaches students how to be a team. The value of teaching teamwork in the classroom, though, adds a different and more cognitive dimension that involves the exchanging and debating of ideas. The takeaway is often a solution that is not the result of any one individual but more the collaborative effort of several minds. Powerful.

My point is this. Teaching is about many things, but it is about so much more than your content. It is also about teaching them life and helping them work through team tension and differing ideas when they are in a safe environment and the stakes are not so high. Help your students learn these skill sets now through creative course interaction. Watch them develop competence and prowess in something that will benefit them in just about every area of life. Think beyond your classroom walls.

Community Input: How do you specifically teach teamwork in your class?

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