The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Adam Smith

Smells like team spirit

Does your classroom benefit from strong pupil centred team spirit? Adam Smith describes how to evaluate and review the impact of teamwork.

In schools we all talk about having a positive ethos or a collaborative culture where we are singing from the same hymn sheet, on the same page, and all the other variations of this notion of being a ‘team’.

As a classroom practitioner I have consistently evaluated the effectiveness of my team so we can indeed smell, feel and see true, pupil centred team spirit on the ground in all our classrooms.

Measuring team spirit

We often hear in our schools that some class teams ‘get on so well’ or ‘that teacher/classroom assistant always develops a great atmosphere’. This of course doesn’t happen by magic, and it involves class team members taking the time to evaluate and review the teamwork that is occurring (see below for some key questions which helps this).

We are all finding now as class teams increase in size due to the ever-changing profile of the children and young people in the mainstream and special sectors, that this team spirit is fundamental to effective learning and teaching experiences.

Ask yourself these questions which I’ve found shape the teams I develop.

  1. Does every member of the class team play a key consistent role in the delivery of high-quality learning and teaching opportunities?
  2. Does everyone know their role? This also involves knowing the role of every other member of the team too, in case of absence.
  3. Does every member of the class team know that it is the needs of the pupils that are to be met, and that personalities and who gets on with who is not important?
  4. Has the teacher shared learning intentions (this might be you as the teacher so reframe this question if needed) with his/her class team?
  5. Do all the staff working in the room with the young people (permanent, temporary, supply/substitute) know the relevant documents (risk assessments, personal learning plans, behaviour protocols, intimate care procedures and so on) that ensures safe, consistent and individualised provision for each of the pupils? Are they readily accessible? Can all staff access them to show other temporary staff?
  6. Have you all actually sat down with a cuppa and discussed the above?

Having practiced this ‘team spirit charter’ approach, sat down and discussed roles, timetables, and plans for regular discussion, I have found:

  • staff more open to saying if they are not feeling on top form
  • that time for pupil centred reflection becomes a matter of norm
  • that staff appreciate they can contribute, make suggestions, and help develop communication systems
  • that the classroom does smell like (pupil centred) team spirit!

Each member of the team should be confident in modelling, selling, and demonstrating the values, aims and the ethos of your classroom

Model and sell your team spirit

This is all very well as long as the very clued up, charter-focussed team remains intact and in place for the entire year. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen and increasingly since the pandemic we find ourselves in a situation where staff absence rate is chronic and staff/class teams are stretched to the limit.

So, what can you do?

Have the ‘smell like (pupil centred) team sprit’ in place in your classroom both metaphorically, where everyone is told about it and shown how it exists, and literally, written up on the classroom wall.

Each member of the team should be confident in modelling, selling, and demonstrating the values, aims and the ethos of your classroom so that anyone joining the team will be able to smell, feel and taste it in the atmosphere.

This will help ensure that the pupils remain at the centre having all their needs consistently met even when a member of their regular support network is absent.

Make it a team effort

All staff need to be empowered to communicate this ethos and writing it down as a staff team charter can be a valuable exercise to complete together from the start. Putting it on the classroom wall will act as a constant reminder.

I have seen all too often one member of the class team be the strong dominant force and act as the spokesperson to share all information with a new member of staff.

However, all class team members should be able to, on behalf of the young people they are serving, demonstrate, model, and describe how ‘the magic’ happens collectively and consistently in the team so that the result is everything smelling like (pupil centred) team spirit.

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