Our first staff meeting at Edward Johnson was partly about getting to know each other. We have many new staff members (including both administrators), several LTOs (Long Term Occasionals) and a growing FDK (Full Day Kindergarten) team of 14 educators. We are also about to get started choosing areas of interest and people to work with for our professional learning teams — aka — our collaborative teacher inquiry groups.
Many getting to know you activities include interest inventories, learning style or learning preference surveys that help us get to know ourselves as learners, but we thought it might be important to get to know ourselves as a group, and wonder a bit about our own participation in teams; how do others influence us, and how do we impact the group? My go-to site for great protocols is the National School Reform Faculty from the Harmony Education Centre, and one that fits really well for this purpose is the Compass Points Activity, its purpose being to understand our preferences in group work.
I’ve used this protocol about 4 times now, very successfully in three f2f sessions and even once trying it online during a Connected Coaching course with PLP Network. Through the protocol we learn a lot about each other, and we learn a lot about how other people in our groups can strengthen our team and ‘balance’ us out.
The protocol is a four corners activity. Each teacher identifies him/herself with one of the compass points which describes them best and then joins others in that group for a brief discussion. In general, the four compass points identify some folks who jump right in, some who like to know the big picture, some who like to focus on the details and some who are concerned about interpersonal skills and making sure that all members are heard.
Here are the points that are discussed in each group and then shared out briefly to all:
- what are the strengths of your style?
- what are the limitations of your style?
- what do you want others to know about your style?
- which of the other styles do you find most difficult to work with and why?
Each group I’ve done this with has had fun and some giggles along the way as we see each group complete the discussion and sharing in a way that suits their style. This time around some teachers noticed that our group was pretty evenly split among the four groups, and that some of their favourite people to work with were actually quite different than them in terms of how they liked to approach group tasks. We learned who liked to jump right in and who liked to see the big picture, who likes to understand the details first and who would want to look after people and make sure that all were heard. We talked about what our group might find stressful at times as well as the benefits to us of having a diverse team.
My hope is that this activity will build some trust among us as we begin our learning this year, and it has also given us some understanding of our role in group dynamics….both from the point of view of what we need to be effective contributors and what our colleagues need from us!
What ways to you try to build a culture of trust and openness that leads to productive group work in your setting?