Whether you are half of a co-teaching team or a more traditional lead guide and an assistant, you are subject to the vagaries of working closely with another adult in a high-stakes and often, high-stress position. Additionally, many teachers do not have the autonomy to choose each other, so you are essential working in what seems like an arranged marriage. Fortunately for you, arranged marriages can be as effective and long-lasting as love marriages!
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” -Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Having worked in many team configurations over the years, and then mentoring many teams as I did as a school leader and now as a school consultant, I have found 10 communication practices consistent in the teams I see working effectively.
Effective Montessori Teaching Teams:
- Establish clear communication channels and identify communication tools that bridge staff schedules and duties.
- Use checklists and an equitable approach to the care and maintenance of the environment.
- Commit to regular meetings or check-ins (15-30 minutes) weekly to clear questions, establish goals, and address a collective agenda.
- Demonstrate respect for the role every adult plays in the environment through their tone and language and show appreciation for each other regularly.
- Speak directly and in a timely manner to the person with which they have had a challenge, child or adult, and when resolved, they let it go emotionally.
- Give and receive constructive and specific feedback.
- Are curious about the world around them and share their passions with each other in the spirit of modeling lifelong learning.
- Adopt an open attitude conducive for learning about their craft.
- Build a common gestural language for communicating silently across classroom environments.
- Delineate parent communication roles and routines with attention to demonstrating value for their role.
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” -Rollo May
Should you need further support in finding strategies for communicating I can highly recommend two resources that can help. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High is an excellent resources chock-o-block full of excellent strategies. I’m not as familiar with, yet have heard high praise for Montessorians trained in techniques gleaned from nonviolent communication.
What will you do to create effective communication in your team?
-by Tammy Oesting
Tammy Oesting has spent the last 25 years delivering professional development workshops, consulting schools, and educating new Montessori teachers. Her passions include issues of social justice, educating support staff, art education, neuroscience as applied to educational practices, and exploring the magnificence of the world. She is location independent and serves Montessori globally through her company ClassrooMechanics. AMS certified 3-6, 6-12