What with the introduction of Personal Learning & Thinking Skills, I’ve done loads of team work with students over the past few years and it was timely that tonight’s #ukedchat‘s topic was ‘How do you build (or mould) a new team at the start of a new academic year?’ One thing that came out of the conversation was how fortunate I am to have such a dedicated, hardworking team of teachers to work with. Sadly, this isn’t everyone’s experience.

Lots of people were keen to point out that sharing your vision for the team is crucial in getting team members on side. Others went as far as suggesting that teams should be consulted on this vision. Obviously, this is a central tenet of Dan Pink’s marvellous book Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us.

Each week myself, the second in faculty and our AST have a ‘steering’ meeting where we discuss stuff that’s on the horizon and share ideas on how make progress as a faculty. We had been saying for months that we needed to rewrite our faculty vision statement but there had always seemed something more pressing to discuss. So, on Strike Day last July (all of us are NASUWT members, not scabs!) we brought along ideas about our vision for the English team – we have a really productive and exciting few hours putting our ideas together. At our next faculty meeting I asked everyone to  spend 10 minutes writing down their vision for the faculty in 100 words or less. Together we arrived at the collection of words on the attached image. Hopefully, this will help guide us when making decisions and working our way through the school plan. Most importantly perhaps is that fact that this is something we have agreed as a team – we all have a vested interest in making it work.

Interestingly, most of this evening’s suggestions seemed to focus on different ways to hold team meetings. When I started as Head of English 3 years ago I was clear about what I didn’t want and a few things that I did: I didn’t want rambling, unchaired discussions that went on interminably and I did want food: I’ve always made a point of supplying snacks!

This was fine as far as it went, but I was challenged by my line manager to introduce single item agendas for meetings. Initially I thought that was stupid: how would we wade through all the admin that piles up when you only get to meet twice a term? It took a while, but we eventually tried it, and it worked. From there we introduced a Top Tips session to start meetings with all team members expected to bring along some suggestions. Last year we had some memorable Top Tips on kinaesthetic learning, differentiation, AfL and questioning to name a few. These are, unsurprisingly, great CPD and have helped every member of the team to feel valued.

The other big change I’ve made is to ban admin from the agenda. If it’s not learning focussed, it’s not on there. I’ve backtracked on this once or twice and always regretted the time it wastes. Instead, we have a weekly email brief which lists upcoming deadlines and important information that staff need to know, but doesn’t need discussing. This year, I’ve managed to convince the person who organises duty rostas to leave the English team free one day a week so that we can can have a morning briefing once a week in case anything slips by the email.

Our plan for faculty meetings in the coming year is that each team member should take a turn at chairing a meeting. It worked really well last year when our second in faculty chaired a couple of meetings and I enjoyed not being the focus. So, we’ve put together a list of learning focussed ideas for each of this years meetings  alongside a list of who’s chairing. I have a super-organised team and they really like to have these things in advance. Not only will this involve the whole team in a more meaningful way, it will also provide opportunities for them to develop leadership skills and will hopefully produce some excellent CPD.

One of the excellent pieces of advice I was offered tonight was to vary the room meetings are held in so that everyone’s displays etc. can be admired. To date, I’ve always held meetings in my room for convenience’s sake, but this seems like a change that is very easy to make and hopefully worthwhile in helping build the team. We’ll see…

There were loads of other great ideas mentioned (I really want to try to get the team using Twitter and building their own PLNs) and I look forward to the round up so I can remember what they were.