Saturday, March 7, 2015

Assembling & Leading a School Climate Team That Actually Sticks Together

In my school board we call it a "Positive Climates For Learning & Working  Team" (PC4LW), maybe where you work it's being referred to as a "Safe Schools Committee", or possibly even an "Equity Team"'. Whatever the case may be, these teams all have relatively the same underlining theme: to make school spaces a safe and inclusive place to learn, work and play in.

But what if your current school or workplace doesn't have this kind of team in its existence? What if you feel you're in it alone? You may fear being the only one who cares about making your space a more inclusive, caring environment. So how do you assemble like-minded individuals and have it actually work and not just on paper? How can you avoid coming across as the lone wolf and instead have supporters and people around you to bounce ideas off of and share the workload in order to reach the goals on your school improvement plan, or just the goal's of your workplace in general? Annnd let's not forget, doing so, drama-free?

Create a team and be patient. 

Your team can't just be a group of your work ''besties''. Your team really needs to be built with members who are actually representative of your workplace. Otherwise, your goals could fail to reach the maximum potential of people in the environment you work, learn and play in. 

What I did:

I decided to approach a couple people who I knew, already supported some of the initial activities I was doing/presenting at staff meetings and on P.A. days. These are the people who I knew were already ''hooked'', would love to get involved and who truly believed in the work. 

I also purposely sought out individuals who I had a good working relationship with and who I knew I could trust. They were the kinds of people who didn't already have a lot on their plate and who were looking for a way to gain valuable leadership experience and involvement but didn't have a means of going about it. Additionally, these folks represented our students in some way be it their division, their identity or their experience (e.g. Special Ed, ESL, etc.).

We met as a group of teachers and began to work out the kinks, making plans for the future and slowly discovering what tasks each one of us could lend a hand with. Be prepared at this stage for teachers to come and go freely. This work is tough and not for everyone. Never take it personal and always try to give anyone an equal shot at figuring out whether being part of the team is a right fit for them. The work will get done, but only as long as a team can gel and work together. In the beginning keep your work manageable while figuring this out. This is so important.

Once I knew had a working team, I invited board consultants into my school who could provide our team training and support. As a team and through this process, we were able to identify goals we wished to achieve in the up-coming year and gain valuable information. This training is extremely important and shouldn't be forgotten in your process. A common experience brings members up to speed who are new to equity/inclusion work and refines skills of the more experienced teachers who sit on your team. This common experience can be used as a reference point for all and really helped reduce the feeling of a ''hierarchy'' within the team.

After you get a group of committed teachers ready for the work, you can slowly start to add in supporters from your parent community. It is hard to have parents willing and able to hold their own among a group of teachers. Again, this role isn't for everyone so when you notice parent members dropping out like flies, it's okay! Be welcoming and encouraging and let people go and come. There is no sense in tying anyone down or coming across as if you are not understanding. Don't push people or micromanage. These are grown adults and to be honest, this kind of team works on a voluntary basis and from the goodness of their hearts. What I did was, approached the parent council and invited representatives to make contact with me after giving an overview of the team and the kinds of work we would be doing in the future. Keep in mind this was my means of finding parents and isn't my ideal approach. I myself am still working out engaging parents especially new-comer families who would have an interest in sitting on the team but perhaps no access to it. This is a goal for me as a team leader. I will be more than happy to blog an approach once I have figured it out! :)

Once you have your parent reps and your teacher reps, you can begin to think about incorporating a student voice on your team. What I did was, created an application seeking out 4 intermediate student reps for the term of one year and outlined their job responsibilities. These 4 reps are truly brave souls walking into our meetings on a bi-weekly basis with a bunch of adults! The student voice is so crucial to your work (especially in a school). They are your real eyes and ears and where you will actually gain real learning from. Even with students though, you may not get them to stick around. Don't be afraid of this. Other students will express interest and come forth if your original core group of students don't. Once people begin to see the awesome events and initiatives your team plans and creates within the school, everyone will start wanting to get involved!

Where I would like to go from here:

I would like to seek out support staff who are willing and able to sit on our team by opening up positions to our secretaries, custodial staff, DECEs, CYWs, EAs, etc. A true school team needs to represent all aspects of a school and no group should remain without a voice.

So what do you do when you have a solid working team? How do you make sure each member is responsible for an equitable and fair amount of work? I believe that would require an entire other blog entry! ;)

Thanks for reading this one and post a comment if you have questions or are interested in assembling your own team!

Toodles! xo

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