10 Things I Do as My Grade Level Team Lead
I’ve spent 7 of my 11 years teaching as a team lead for my grade level. Over the years I’ve made life-long friendships with some of my teammates as well as endured the type of team drama that briefly made third grade the talk of the school. Suffice to say, through trial and error I’ve learned a lot!
When I first started, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I quickly learned that being a grade level team lead means a lot of things.
It means planning, organizing, getting on the same page as your team members, delegating tasks and responsibilities, and balancing your personal life with your professional one. Here are 10 things I do to make the year successful.
1. Plan in Advance
One of the things my team does every year before summer break is pacing. That way, we don’t have it do it during work week and should anyone feel inspired to plan over the summer, they have everything they need.
We also plan assessments in each subject to ensure that we are not testing multiple subjects on the same day. We plan when we will meet and I make a schedule for who is in charge of front loading any unit documents we will be using. All of this planning prevents things from falling solely to me or any other one person. We are a Microsoft school so every pacing, planning, scheduling, or team document is housed on our One Drive that everyone (including admin and specialists) have access to.
2. Make a schedule
One of the first things I do is make a schedule with meeting days and times. It’s important to have a schedule so that everyone knows when they’re expected to be in the room and ready to go. This will help you avoid last-minute scheduling changes, which can lead to wasted time and effort. It also lets everyone know what they need to work on before the meeting starts (if anything).
3. Stay on the same page
Another thing I do is get on the same page by having discussions with my team before inviting specialists in. That way, everyone knows what’s going on, what questions to ask, and what information they’ll need from specialists to answer those questions for us. If we have a decision to make as a team, we try to do that when only immediate team members are present so that all of our voices and heard and considered.
4. Send Meeting Agendas & Take Minutes
I send agendas in advance so that all team members, specialists, and admin know what we are meeting about. I will typically send a bulleted list once a month or every two weeks. At the meeting, one of us will take minutes…I’m talking the most simple minutes possible. I basically just type up any decisions made, pacing shifted, and upcoming dates. I also include if there were questions we had for admin or a specialist that we didn’t want to forget. I email you the whole team but also to sped/autism who have students in our class but aren’t able to attend all of our meetings.
I delegate among all of us—I’m not going to be able to do it all myself! We have different strengths and weaknesses, so it makes sense for us each to take on certain tasks within our classroom or grade level. This way, each person has a role they can execute without having to worry about everything else going on around them. And it keeps everyone accountable!
6. Set and Revisit Norms
We set and revisit norms. This helps us all stay clear on what’s expected of us as a team so that we can focus on learning together. I build norm checks into our routine by making a meeting template. If it’s a practice/routine, then when someone is not meet team expectations, I can just revisit the norms like they are used to me doing periodically anyway and no one feels singled out.
7. Balance the personal
Balance personal and professional talk at team meetings! This is especially important when working with people you don’t know very well yet—you want them to feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns about work related matters, but you also want them to know that they can talk about their personal lives too (if they want).
For a team to work together well, they need to be friendly. This means occasionally talking about our lives. I have the not-so-fun task of steering the conversation back on track after too many minutes have passed that so we can keep to our agenda, but I do value the chit chat. If I know that Jean’s baby hasn’t been feeling well, then we she texts or emails at 5am the next morning having to call out with no sub plans after her baby throws up, everyone is much more willing to pitch in vs if they weren’t invested. We invest in each and support each other.
8. Be Flexible
As much as I plan for everything, I appreciate that as a team we still need to stay flexible. If multiple teachers are out, it might make sense to move a meeting. If admin just announced a new policy, we might need to spend the meeting discussing what this means for us. If everyone is feeling burned out and behind, we might need to cancel and just catch up instead. Having a schedule and being prepared makes it so much easier to pivot on a dime without things falling through the cracks.
9. Make templates
I will preface this by saying that that if your team lead position is not paid, then I am by no means telling you to do even more work for free. My position is not paid, but I still do this because I know I am the one that will have to be in lead meetings to explain why my team doesn’t have certain tasks done. That’s not fun and it’s also not fun hounding my team all the time. To try and solve this dilemma, I make templates for anything I know my team might have trouble remembering or staying on top of. Then reviewing those goes on our agenda so everyone can be reminded to do it and bring it. Some of the templates I have made include tracking for unit test data, reading level progress, and fluency.
I admit, I don’t mind speaking out or making waves when it comes to advocating for myself, my team, or my students. I encourage my team to find a solution anytime there is a problem that causes us to have vent sessions. Then we take those solutions, as well as a clear frank discussion of why a solution is needed, to admin or the specialists it concerns.
This process of going through the frustrating experience, problem solving it, and advocating for ourselves/students to another party always brings us together. I don’t mind doing the talking or the email writing, but I always make sure my team is on the same page and I always make sure I offer the opportunity to be the voice to others on the team.
What practices do you use as team lead?
As I enter another year as not only team lead, but lead mentor, I am here for all the tips! Please share your advice and ideas with me. I am all about efficiency and streamlining so that when I leave work, I can leave all my work. If you don’t have a tip to share but one of these resonated with you? Let me know!
Talk to you soon!