Karen Capel, an Academic Coordinator and teacher trainer, returns with another post for Coordinators and Directors of Study, sharing her tips for encouraging teamwork among teaching staff.
Teamwork must be at the core of any organisation’s corporate culture. Needless to say, it plays a crucial role in educational institutions, since it is teachers who represent their values and principles before students, in addition to building trust and respect.
In order for this relationship to be successful, we need to ensure teachers are acquainted with the philosophy behind our school, as well as any news or decisions that have been taken and may affect either them or their students. It is essential to bear in mind that even if students know us as coordinators and resort to us sometimes, this happens only in certain circumstances. Otherwise, it is their teacher who acts as the main source of confidence and information, and who consequently needs to be well-informed at all times.
It goes without saying that teaching can be lonely at times. We are always surrounded by students but the actual work is done solo: planning, doing research, creating materials, evaluating our performance after a lesson and even the delivery of the lesson itself. It is therefore the coordinator’s responsibility to make sure all teachers receive the necessary support and guidance so as to feel part of a team and supported.
Below you will find some tips which may help you achieve this not-so-easy task:
- Set common objectives and make sure everybody is fully aware of what these are and what they entail for each member of the team. It is vital for you to believe in these goals in order for the rest of your staff to believe in them as well.
- Roles need to be clear for everyone to do their job right, so let people know what their responsibilities are and how they fit into the organisation. This will help avoid misunderstandings, tasks which do not get done and overlapping of roles.
- Show your team a confident attitude. You need to show staff that if you pool your efforts, you will be able to achieve your goals.
- Share your knowledge and expertise when appropriate, especially with new or less experienced teachers who may need more guidance. Remember to always be careful that your suggestions are expressed in a non-patronising way. Staff should be encouraged to pop in whenever they feel they would benefit from some support.
- Leave your office doors open for teachers to share any concerns and/or suggestions they may have. Remember they are the ones in direct contact with students and therefore have access to first-hand information, which may prove of paramount importance to making the right decisions regarding courses, coursebooks, methodology used, etc.; all key elements to successful coodination. Being fully informed and keeping a close relationship with your staff paves the way to proactivity and, as a result, success.
- Be accessible and dependable. Leaving the door open should be an attitude rather than just an action. You ought to be a good listener and really pay attention to teachers’ ideas, suggestions or preoccupations. Follow-up on the different issues that may arise and make sure you answer their queries and provide them with the information they require. Adopt a democratic leadership style, asking for their feedback on any decisions taken and letting them have a say – even if the final decision will always be yours. Praise contributions and ideas and listen to constructive criticism. It takes courage to let the coordinator know you don’t agree with something, so value this as proof of motivation and a desire to work towards common goals.
- Communicate with staff on a regular basis, be it by email or face-to-face, before or after lessons, or at formal meetings. Make sure communication is two-way and that the necessary channels exist for staff to not only receive information but also share it, both with you and with other teachers. This can be done, for example, by having Google Drive groups where you can share links and materials found online or created by the members of the group. You can also organise events where teachers can share and present their ideas and materials to one another. Although this could be seen as time-consuming and difficult to organise, it has proven to be extremely useful for my teachers, due to the fact that it provides them with the chance to see ‘materials in action’ and get acquainted with their rationale.
What do you do to promote teamwork within your institution?