Let’s say you are team teaching, but you just endure the team teaching relationship because you have to. You don’t particularly care for your partner, you don’t agree with most of what they say, and you feel like time spent together is often wasted. So you put up with the partnership because you get to teach – it’s a necessary compromise to allow you to do something you enjoy.
Behind closed doors you are un-invested in the co-teaching model, but when you hit the classroom you really invest in the kids. You build relationships, remember important details about their lives, you know their tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses, and you do whatever it takes to help them succeed. Here’s the question: What is sacrificed for the kids because your relationship with your team teacher suffers? What is lost? What’s at risk for them?
Anyone who’s experienced this dynamic would probably say “a TON” because the reality is you can’t hide misalignment. People are more perceptive than that. And the message the kids get is “it’s ok for our teachers to be divisive and at odds.” And what’s the impact of that mentality?
- Kids might play favorites. One teacher might approve something that the other doesn’t agree with.
- Kids might feel uncomfortable with the sub-surface tension.
- Kids might only look out for themselves because that’s what their teachers do.
- Kids might fall into behavior issues because of what they observe.
- Kids lose sight of the learning and academics because they are so focused on the relational dynamic of the teachers.
- Kids might learn more slowly or get dragged through curriculum that shouldn’t take that long simply because the teachers are misaligned.
How is team leadership any different?
Prioritizing the team you lead over the team you’re on is like prioritizing the kids over the relationship between the co-teachers. This sounds right on the surface – kids are #1 – but over the long-haul the tradeoff is huge because at the end of the day the kids thrive when the teachers are aligned. They may still do well in the short-term even if the teachers aren’t cohesive, but how much better could they do with unified teachers? How much better could your team do if their leaders were “of one mind?”
There is nothing greater any leader can do than invest in the relationships on the team. Let me repeat that: whether you are a co-leader or you are on a team of leaders, there is no greater investment you can make than getting aligned, being vulnerable, and building unity.
When the school year starts, fires pop up that need to be put out. That may seem to be your top priority but don’t fall victim to the short-term game. We’re in this for the long haul. Delegate as much as you can and focus on the strength of the partnership: co-directors, co-teachers, co-leaders, or team members. You’ll thank yourself in May.