The Power of Teacher Teams
As teachers of middle grades students, we know how active, unpredictable, lovable, funny and impulsive kids at this age can be. These quirky attributes make engaging and teaching them a definite challenge. To help strengthen and advance middle school learning, author Jill Spencer has put forth a wonderful handbook to use as a guide for re-instituting teaming among middle school teachers, supporting the idea that teaming is a very effective way to connect with the needs of adolescent students in the 21st century.
Spencer’s informal and conversational text, from the first page of the forward to the final sentence, produces a friendly, approachable, and useful discussion on the purpose, creation, management, etc., of teacher teams. In the foreword and author’s comment, Spencer’s positive words of encouragement and support create interest and excitement in the possibility of building a team to plan and work together.
Each chapter begins with an affirmative and supportive statement, followed by a realistic and descriptive scenario that lays the groundwork for each chapter topic. Subject headings are divided into accessible subheadings followed with descriptions and information, step-by-step action lists to follow, a Next Step section, and a Final word from Jill, which summarizes the chapter. Numerous figures, adaptable strategies, activities, plans, web pages, technology applications, etc., provide ideas on how to implement these ideas for successful teams.
The 12 chapters logically progress through the essentials of creating effective teams, how to build a sense of community to foster 21st century skills by developing a safe environment, creating norms for teams to follow in collaborating, and helping students develop collaboration and problem solving skills. A chapter emphasizing the importance of planning time for increasing the team’s effectiveness also provides guidelines for successful team planning, including how to work together for consistency, the value in making connections with special staff who also work with students, and the importance of giving students decision making power.
Other chapters discuss developing organizational skills through implementing study groups and by coordinating class assignments, teaching consistency in note taking, developing a cross-curricular program for reading, writing, and vocabulary development, using and managing computers, evaluating Internet resources, creating consistency in research skills, understanding and knowing students’ specific educational needs, acquiring planning efficiency, teaching appropriate etiquette, utilizing flexible scheduling and realizing the value of student self-assessment.
The final chapter summarizes the importance of teacher teaming in student learning (and the power of students taking an active role in decision making) and highlights studies showing improved test scores in schools with strong teacher teams. Spencer also notes the many possibilities for collaboration among teacher teams.
Appendix A includes the framework for planning a student-centered unit. Appendix B includes an outline of Real World Learning components with classroom strategies and resources organized by topics. A lengthy reference list completes this very worthwhile and informative resource for implementing teacher teams. The list is easy to read and full of ideas to increase learning even for those teachers in a school without a team.
Susan Shaver is a K-12 Library Media Specialist in the Hemingford Public Schools, Hemingford, NE. This is her third review for MiddleWeb. Thanks, Susan!