Habit #4: Communication is key!
As we look at some key habits of effective co-teachers this week, one thing that might be easily overlooked is the idea of communicating with the various stakeholders. In the midst of this extended time of learning at home, realize that you’re now a part of a new team – one that didn’t exist in this form a few weeks ago. And any team that wants to succeed has to communicate well and work toward a common set of goals.
Some key dynamics to keep in mind as your team is getting off the ground is a tried-and-true model brought to you by Bruce Tuckman, circa 1965.
Tuckman theorized all those years ago that teams typically go through 4 stages of development: forming, storming, norming, and performing. Essentially, it boils down to this:
- Forming: every team starts somewhere. Once team members are identified, goals are set, and everyone gets to work. So congratulations! You’re a part of a newly-formed team. Your team members likely include you, your student(s), your classroom teachers (if you have them), and your spouse or partner. Coordination and communication are key elements to surviving this stage. Go team!
- Storming: once your team is formed, you start to work together. Sometimes this goes smoothly, and other times you might get into some rough waters (that’s where the grace and flexibility habits from yesterday come in handy). As you can imagine, tensions might run high as folks learn their new roles.
You are learning what it means to be both parent and teacher. Your spouse is learning what it means to support you in this new role. Your child is trying to figure out what it means to do school at home, without the familiar surroundings of their classroom and their friends. And your classroom teacher is learning to share the reigns with all of the parents of all of their students. In short: it can feel like a lot.
Toes will be stepped on. Wires will get crossed. Confusion will reign (hopefully briefly) as new technologies and boundaries are established and learned. Thus, the “storming” title for this particular phase. Keeping lines of communication open is crucial as these choppy waters are navigated by everyone on the team.
- Norming: once you make it through the storms above, people on the team are likely more comfortable with their roles and the associated expectations. Patterns are established, expectations are shared, and common goals keep everyone moving in the same direction. Communication at this stage could be developing a status email to your classroom teacher or finding a time during the week to check in with your partner about how things are going.
Another aspect to consider at this stage is the idea of a feedback loop: how do team members communicate the need for something to change? How are issues raised before they become bigger problems?
In this season where things seem to be changing on a weekly basis, having a tighter feedback loop (one that cycles through things more quickly) could benefit the team.
One feedback loop we “tightened” at ACS was the touchpoints between classroom teachers and our co-teaching parents. Previously, face-to-face time typically took place during Parent/Teacher conferences each semester. Other forms of communication happened weekly (lesson plans, status emails, etc.). However, as the landscape changed rapidly in March, we established a new weekly cadence to include online meetings with classroom teachers and co-teachers. This new “norm” has been beneficial in helping our teams more effectively embrace this new reality of full-time learning at home. The tighter communication feedback loop was a win for everyone!
- Performing: here’s where things can start to really shine, as everyone on your team starts to work in harmony (at least sometimes) and you start to get some “wins” under your belt. You become more confident and equipped in your role as a teacher. After a few weeks, schooling from the comfort of your own home becomes the new normal (at least for this season).
A small, but very impactful, example of communication in the performing stage for our Mustang community has been Virtual Chapel. Prior to this season, chapel on campus was a high point of the day. Singing together and learning truths about God each day was something that everyone looked forward to. So what does a team do when that’s no longer possible? Virtual chapel! Our leadership now spends time each week putting together a chapel talk for our Mustangs, and this new slant on corporate worship is something that the community looks forward to each week.
Now does the performing stage mean that problems don’t arise? Or that some goals aren’t met? Not a chance. The goal isn’t to avoid bad days, but rather, to work through them as a team. Communicating with your partner, your student, your classroom teacher, and your peers on both the good days and the bad days will help keep things on track.
Your school might have already established an expected cadence of communication. And your team might be well into the norming or performing stage. Great! Go team!
But if you’re struggling with this new role, take a moment to consider your team and consider where you might be on this journey. Communicate honestly and regularly with everyone so that you can start working together toward a common set of goals. Set aside time to gather your thoughts, and share them with those that are on this journey with you.
Yes, we realize that this sounds more like something you’d see on a whiteboard in an office in corporate America, but it’s applicable in the homeschool room (or the living room, or at the breakfast table) as well. Clear and honest communication, no matter what stage you’re at, will benefit everyone involved.