Teacher as Team Leader
Teacher as Team Leader
Teamwork is not just for the athletic field—it is also the key to a successful environmental action project. Like a coach, the classroom teacher must be a model, guide, and counselor for students as they learn to work together to accomplish a common goal.
When students share responsibility for organizing and conducting a project, they begin to develop team skills and behaviors. They learn that teams are important not only in sports, but also in science, architecture, engineering, and many other career fields. Students on a project team must
- communicate ideas
- consider options
- plan ahead
- coordinate actions
- anticipate problems
- evaluate results.
They apply information and strengthen skills learned in English, history and social sciences, mathematics, and science classes. As team members they may also disagree with each other on occasion and must learn the art of compromise.
As team leader, the teacher has the responsibility of organizing and controlling all of this activity so that it leads students toward achievement of project and educational goals.
Safety and Security
The teacher is responsible for safety procedures, any insurance or liability arrangements, and conformity of projects to school policy.
Work Schedule and Workgroups
Once the class has decided on a project, the teacher helps the students develop a work schedule and timeline. Using this work schedule as a guide, the teacher can subdivide the class into workgroups, each responsible for a part of the project. The teacher's knowledge of each student's personality, learning style, and preferences will be invaluable in organizing a classroom full of eager (and less eager) workers into smoothly functioning workgroups.
After workgroups are established, the teacher directs and supervises their work or arranges for other adults to help supervise. Unless the students are very young or have no experience in doing projects, the adults should avoid giving overly structured directions that force the students to follow a set of "cookbook" instructions. Much of the learning that takes place in this type of activity, as well as the students' sense of ownership and pride, results from the fact that they did much of the work on their own. Certainly students will need guidance from the teacher as their plans emerge, and the teacher or other adults in charge should approve all activities in advance.
Division of Labor
Among the challenges a teacher faces when managing small-group work are making sure the work is divided fairly and appropriately among the group members and ensuring that all students are contributing to the group effort. Some students will always do more than others; however, no student should sit back and let other team members do all the work. Nor should an overzealous student be allowed to take charge without allowing others an opportunity to participate.
The teacher will wish to schedule class meetings at critical points so that each workgroup can report to the other workgroups what it has accomplished.
Clarification of Student Roles and Parent Involvement
Students' roles should be clearly defined. They each should know what their responsibilities are, how to start, and when to complete their work. All team members should receive role assignments, along with clearly written directions defining their job and deadlines. Students should take this information home to their parents so that parents are aware of the expectations. Parents should also receive information about the academic aspects of projects, such as competency and skill applications in English, history and social sciences, mathematics, and science.
The roles described below are broadly defined so that they can be adapted for a variety of project plans. In making workgroup assignments, teachers will wish to consider in particular the needs of students with differing abilities. The wide variety of tasks and roles available should provide all students with opportunities to do their best work.
The chairperson is responsible for coordinating the workgroup so that the job gets done. This student conducts workgroup meetings, makes work assignments (with the teacher's help), and makes sure all workgroup members understand their assignments and deadlines. This student will be the teacher's contact person and will communicate information between the teacher and workgroup members. This student should get along well with people, be a good communicator, and be organized.
The recordkeeper/reporter is in charge of all written information, including minutes of workgroup meetings, letters, reports to the class, and other such communications. This student should be skilled in written expression. The record-keeper/reporter may also be responsible for giving oral progress reports to the entire class.
Materials and Supply Manager
With input from other workgroup members, the materials and supply manager is responsible for developing a list of the materials and supplies needed for the workgroup's assignment. This student will take the necessary steps to obtain the materials and supplies and be responsible for keeping track of loaned and donated items. Two students may share this role if there is enough work for both, and all workgroup members will need to pitch in to help provide the needed materials.
For example, if the workgroup is in charge of preparing a school site for a butterfly garden, the materials manager discusses with the workgroup what garden tools are needed and whether they can be borrowed from parents, the school, or the local garden supply store. During the project, the materials manager keeps track of the tools and, with the teacher's guidance, makes sure they are used and cared for properly. Once the project is complete, the materials manager collects the equipment and makes sure everything is returned to its owner in good condition.
These students will be in charge of particular details that require specific skills and talents. For example, in an advertising or public relations workgroup, a student who has artistic talent could be the technician in charge of the design of posters or flyers. A student with computer skills could be in charge of word processing to assist the recordkeeper with minutes, letters, and reports. Technicians may also be in charge of a variety of other tasks, serving as helpers in whatever the workgroup undertakes.