With three weeks under my belt, I am really starting to get a good feel for the pulse of Marathon High School. There are many, many good things that happen within the walls of this school, but the strength of teamwork really stands out.
It is perhaps cliché that I am choosing to write about teams and teamwork, but the truth is that without the work of many different teams the school would cease to function. For a long time, Ontario’s Ministry of Education has included Promoting Collaborative Learning Cultures as a core capacity within Ontario’s Leadership Framework. From a pedagogical standpoint, it’s hard to argue against the positive impact teamwork has on student achievement and well-being. I could go on-and-on about all of the research available on the topic. There’s even this handy little chart that summarizes all of this, (in case anyone was in disagreement with the obvious)
Instead, I want to write about the more immediate and practical value of teamwork that I have seen in the last three weeks at Marathon High School, like the “Open Gym” every morning and during lunch. A staff member, (usually the Child and Youth Worker but sometimes me) opens the gym and many, many students flood in for pickup basketball, volleyball drills, chin-ups, or just hanging out. The open gym environment provides visible evidence of the supportive, active, and energetic value of teams. Community volunteers sometimes show up to help with these open gyms and other student-centred initiates. It’s truly a thing of beauty. There are also the volunteer members and advisors of the Marathon High School Student Council who braved sheets of stinging rain and torrential winds to barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers for a free Welcome Back lunch. The power of teamwork is alive in our school’s Student Success Team, a roundtable of sorts with the goal of providing interventions and actions to support students at risk. Without the team coming together, it would be far more difficult to provide such individualized support for students.
As a Principal, it might be easy for me to be isolated, but I know that I can count on my team to make sure I’m not alone. The school’s Learning Leads have provided excellent insight into how we might provide instructional leadership for our staff. The federation groups, (including the OSSTF Teacher/Occasional Teacher Branch President), the In-School Staffing Committee, and their district counterparts have also proven to be valuable parts of my team, providing me with insight and a different perspective. Finally, other principals have been instrumental in ensuring that I’m not just aimlessly piecing this job together.
Teamwork is, of course, not automatic. It has to be fostered through good relationships, clear communication, and a whole lot of trust. These things are very, very important to me and my hope is that we have a team that is strong enough to weather even the most challenging of storms.
This week, I will be putting together the base of our School Learning Plan. My plan is to focus on the work of the Critical Thinking Consortium, but this will only be successful if I can get buy-in from the team. That isn’t automatic, either. So, there lies my goal: convincing my team that the work is worthwhile, that it will positively affect student learning and well-being, and that it will strengthen our school. Sounds easy, right?