Five Things I Have Learned As A Teacher Leader

This fall, I began my fourth year of teaching. During our summer training workshops, I learned that I was promoted to the position of teacher leader, or team leader, for my grade. Truth be told, this promotion came as a big shock. Even though I was starting my fourth year, I still felt like I had no idea what I was doing in the classroom. I worried that I was too much an introvert and ill-prepared to take on such a big role. In the end though, I had to accept the position with grace, put on my big girl panties, and try my best to do my job.

The past month has been a huge roller coaster ride for me as I juggled multiple roles as homeroom teacher, science teacher, and team leader. There were a lot of chocolate bars devoured as I worked through my frustrations and tight deadlines. I did learn a lot about how to be a good team leader, and I share those lessons with you below.

5 Things I Have Learned As A Team Leader (In The Past Month)

1. Model a positive and encouraging attitude. 

Changes, deadlines, and stress will always be a constant at work. With important visits coming up, there is a lot of pressure to perform well. This is increasingly tough to do with less staff, less resources, and less planning time available this year. Understandably, there is a lot of tension in the office. It is easy to come to work with a negative attitude, and to vent our frustrations with one another. However, at the end of the day, we still are responsible for making sure we do what we need to do. As a team leader, I learned that I help set the tone for the day when I come in with a smile on my face and share kind encouraging words with my team.

2. Delegate.

During the past month, I would wake up in the middle of the night, remembering something that I needed to do for the next day. When driving to work, I would stop in the middle of my daily prayers and realize I had stopped praying because I started thinking about tasks and people I have to talk to when I get in the office. My brain felt stuffed, and finally, I realized I had to start delegating tasks to my team mates. During team meetings, I learned how to focus on 1-3 major agenda items, come up with proposed action plans on those items, and assign my team mates specific tasks with deadlines. As team leader, I learned that it takes just as much courage to ask for help than to give help to someone else.

3. Treat others with respect.

As a team leader, I have to advocate for the needs of my team. It is hard to teach when you have missing supplies, broken technology tools, or not enough desks or space for your classes. My team shares their frustrations with me, and I have to communicate their needs with front office staff and administrators. As the old adage goes, you get a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar. Front office staff, administrators, and janitorial custodians are people with feelings too; they don’t like it when they’re being bogged down with multiple requests and demands. I would feel angry and resentful too if people only want to talk to me to get something, especially when they are rude or abrupt about it. As team leader, I learned that making the time and effort to ask how someone is doing goes a long way.

4. Keep a paper trail.

Along the same lines of advocacy, sometimes things just don’t happen even when you go through the proper channels. As a team leader, I learned that it is important to keep a paper trail. The paper trail keeps all parties transparent and accountable for their responsibilities. When something happens (or does not happen), I know that I can honestly say I did my best effort and have proof to show for it.

5. Feed your team.

It is important to feed your team, figuratively and in the literal sense. As team leader, I have found myself also acting as counselor and cheerleader for my team mates. Sometimes we just get so discouraged after bad days at work. This is where my check-ins come in handy. I’m not the best at pep-talks, but my team knows they can talk to me any time about anything and that they can expect honest and straightforward answers from me. As a team leader, I have learned that it is important to tell people how much you appreciate them and their hard work. In addition, being the only female teacher on the team, I often bring in home-baked goods after a stressful day. Those frosted Bundt cakes sure does wonders to our team morale!

What lessons have you learned as a teacher leader, or team leader? Please share!

Finding the Courage to Teach

I can tell that the First Day of School is drawing very near when my Facebook newsfeed starts to fill with posts from teacher-friends about sleepless nights and reoccurring nightmares. I myself have been dreaming the same nightmare for the past two or three days… I keep dreaming that I lose my cool in the middle of a class after engaging with disruptive students. I scream and yell to make myself heard, but the class just laughs at me. The weight of the humiliation and embarrassment wakes me up, and I end up tossing and turning for the rest of the night.

During my summer break, I picked up and read “The Courage to Teach” by Parker J. Palmer. The first chapter strongly resonated with me, especially the part where he talked about how good teaching is not all about technique, but rather the identity and integrity of the teacher.  Many teachers pursue this career because they are passionate about making connections. However, somewhere along the line, they become disconnected as a way to protect themselves from their nightmares.

My teaching experience last year was a lot like that. I closed myself off from my students because there was too much for me to deal with at work. I was stressed and unable to joke around, or share funny anecdotes. I tried to be more authoritarian and it made for a miserable environment for everyone. This year, I look forward to another chance to turn things around. I want to create a happier learning environment by being the person I am, and not who I think I should be.

‘Be not afraid’ does not mean that we should not have fears. Instead, it says that we do not need to be our fears. – Parker J. Palmer

As a teacher, I have a million fears. I am afraid of not being prepared, of losing things, or a lesson plan that did not go as planned. I am afraid of forgetting my schedule, or being laughed at by students, just like in my nightmares. I understand now though that this is part of being a teacher. I have to put myself out there for my students. I have to accept that I can only do my best each and every day; accept that sometimes things will not happen as planned; and try not to berate myself for the things I was unable to do. So tonight, I am going to dream good things about the year ahead. Tomorrow, my students and I will have a great First Day of School.


She Tweeted You With Science! 08/28/2014

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Daily Favorites in Education 08/25/2014

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She Tweeted You With Science! 08/21/2014

  • How do social forces shape how science is conducted, funded, communicated and reviewed? Do the practices and processes employed in biomedical research—collaboration, communication, skepticism, and peer review—lead to a valuable and objective way of learning about the world?

    This curriculum introduces students to ways in which scientific research is conducted, how social forces influence scientific priorities, and how basic scientific research may, or may not, support medical applications for human health. Throughout the unit, students are asked to consider their roles and responsibilities in being scientifically literate citizens.

    tags: science science-literacy curriculum lesson-plans labs activities

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She Tweeted You With Science! 08/16/2014

  • FREE Standards Based Lessons and Materials to Match

    Searching for a last minute lesson plan, or looking for new ways to cover popular topics in your classroom? Get inspired and save lesson prep-time in the classroom with these lesson plans exclusively written by teachers – and all aligned to National Science Standards.

    For fast and easy shopping, materials to match each lesson are linked to the lesson plan.

    Browse the lesson plans below by topic and then shop the related materials to make them happen in your classroom.

    tags: Science teacher-resources lesson-plans

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Daily Favorites in Education 08/15/2014

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My Favorite Edu-Tweets of the Week (weekly)

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