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.
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!