Whole school teams provide a good opportunity for teachers to engage in ideas and projects outside their faculties. You can access expertise beyond your immediate colleagues, you can share you ideas more broadly and feel like you have an impact beyond your own classroom. Yes, it involves extra work, but other than faculties, whole school teams are some of the most important structures that enable schools to function and thrive.
Unfortunately we have all had experiences where we agree to become part of a team, turn up to the meetings weeks after week, but feel like nothing is happening. Numbers in the team start dropping off, and before you know it the team disbands. So, how do you lead an effective team? Just as importantly, how do you ensure that you are an effective team member (even if you don't lead the team)?
Tips for running a successful team:
Have long term goals. It is often worth having a look at your school plan, or the Schools Excellence Framework to see how your team fits into the bigger picture. What is the purpose of your team? How will it contribute to the School Improvement Plan? What training do staff need that relates to your team - either for the staff in your team or for the whole school? How will your team drive student improvement?
Have milestones for each term and break down the milestones into smaller achievable tasks. Check these off as you achieve them. For each meeting ensure that there are actions to be completed and that these have been allocated to people in the team. This will help to drive things forward, so that you aren't going round in circles. There's nothing more frustrating than turning up to a meeting where you talk about the same thing that was discussed the previous meeting, or where you spend time looking for the next thing to do. This is why it is important to have something to aim for and a plan on how to get there.
Try to have some teacher roles within the team (even if they area bit vague). Roles could include: regularly taking the minutes, sourcing/analysis data, liaising with other staff (e.g. particular faculties), liaising with the Principal/Deputies, etc.
Be aware of people's workloads and what is achievable at different times. There will be times when some people are busy and others aren't. Help each other out and work together towards your team's goals. However, pushing through on your team's agenda when people are struggling with reports, or some other pressure is not a great idea. Pace out your goals, push items back as needed. Keep your eye on the prize, but slow progress over a year is better than rushing things through, and making mistakes or burning people out.
Maintain records and keep files organised. You might be running a particular whole school team this year, but you aren't the first person to do it, and chances are the previous people who ran the team had lots of positive ideas too. Archive files from previous years, but keep them organised so that you can find things as needed. We all know that education goes round and round in circles. Something that was pushed aside for some reason last year, might be just what is needed this year. Don't recreate the wheel. Revisit what has already been done - it might need some revision or updating, but you may not need to create something from scratch. Try to keep organisational tasks to a minimum in the actual meetings - use emails, shared files instead, and use your shared Google Drive, or other file sharing system for storing/organising files.
Whole school teams can be a great way to connect with staff, be part of innovative projects and drive school improvement. Some of my best experiences in schools have been working in these types of teams. Ensure that you balance your workload, but find something that you are interested and dig your toe in!
Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the Geoactive text book series.