The Freshman Transition Network

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Part 5 – Creating a Freshman Transition Program – Don’t Forget to Team

If you’ve been reading the posts on this website (example) over the past few months, read my book The Ninth Grade Opportunity, or attended one of Solutions, etc.’s Freshman Transition Conferences, then you are aware of what I consider to be the key to successfully transitioning freshmen – teaming teachers.

Any true solution in a school or with students will depend first and foremost on the teacher in the classroom. Administrators and others can support that teacher – or make life harder for the teacher – but when it all still comes down to the teacher in the classroom. Therefore, any true solution must focus on ways to make teachers more effective.

This is where teaming comes into play. A strong team of 4 teachers is much more effective than 4 strong individual teachers. I don’t know if I can possibly go into all the reasons why a team of teachers that shares a group of students is so effective – my fingers might fall off if I type that much. While this is obviously a self-serving suggestion, I really do suggest that you read The Ninth Grade Opportunity if you would like a detailed discussion of teaming. For now, let me point out one of the key benefits of teaming – teaming allows teachers to operate at the power of four. If four teachers (or more) are teamed together and share a group of students, then everything those teachers do is magnified exponentially in its effectiveness - the power of four.

Consider this: You require your students to be in their seats when the bell rings so that you can practice tone-to-tone (or bell-to-bell) teaching and take advantage of every possible moment of instruction.

Now consider this: The students you have in your class also have 3 other teachers that have the exact same requirement in their classrooms. What’s more, they go about explaining this expectation and enforcing it in the same manner as you. Imagine how much more effective this expectation will now be.

Now look at it from the student’s perspective. Instead of having 4 different teachers each of whom have different requirements and different procedures; the student is able to learn one basic set of expectations. How much easier this will make life for the freshman trying to survive in the high school.

Standardizing expectations allows students to better learn what is expected of them and it allows teachers to be more effective in meeting the needs of students - the power of four. This is just one of the benefits that comes from teaming teachers.

Others would include the fact that teamed teachers who share a group of students will be better able to:
1. Communicate with parents;
2. Find ways to recognize students;
3. Teach students the learning skills they need to succeed;
4. Share essential strategies for creating a positiveclassroom environment; and
5. Learn from one another.

As I alluded to earlier, I could write forever on the benefits of teaming teachers together. Perhaps in a future post I will write more. For now, though, please begin looking at how you can team your teachers together as you create your Freshman Transition Program.

Any thoughts or questions?

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Comment by Scott Habeeb on April 6, 2009 at 10:17pm
Great question. First of all, I would embrace the idea of teachers having such a strong role in the decisions that go into your program - as long as those decisions are then supported by administrators. I would encourage you to be careful about putting people together based on friendships. You're going to want a good mix of personalities on your teams. Often closer friends have similar personalities. They're already friends without teaming, so not being on the same team shouldn't hurt that. On the other hand, you want your teams to be able to get along. If you know there could be friction between members, watch out. Bottomline, I'd look for balance on the teams. Balance in terms of experience, personality, and strengths. You want team time to be enjoyable so don't mix "oil and water," but do try to balance the teams out, even if that means 2 great friends end up on different teams.
Comment by Monica Clark on April 6, 2009 at 2:03pm
Question, - I attended your seminar this past weekend in Nashville. It was wonderful. I do have a question about the initial design of the teams. We will begin our second year of a Freshmen transition program next school year where we intend to implement the concept of teams. I am almost certain that we will at least 2 teams of 4 content area teachers that teach only freshmen and a possible third team that teaches some freshmen but also some upper classmen. We currently have an administrator assigned to us, but this individual is not very strong. I feel that if we approach the prinicipal with team assignments that she is going to delegate that to two teachers (co-chairs) of the program. I am one of those teachers. If this happens, is there one best method to use to determine the make-up of the teams or will we just have to go through a trial and error system. I really believe this is too important to leave to chance, but I am sort of at a loss right now on what would be the best way to handle this. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

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