Like schools across Philadelphia and the country, SLA is in the midst of preparing for our first day of school. My twitter feed is full of anxiety about meeting new students, pictures of spiffy classrooms, and conversations about the first day.
One more thing to consider: are you ready to have a productive year with your fellow teachers?
I know that schools can be highly dysfunctional working environments — and that I’m lucky to work in a building that avoids most of the typical pitfalls. But we’re still a staff with very different working styles, and with so much energy going into our classrooms, we don’t always have the time or energy to understand each other. And with dozens of committees and two hours of staff planning time each week, working together well is even more vital than in a more typical top-down school.
To help us start this year on the right foot, the Diversity committee — which looks at all varieties of issues relating to both teachers and students — presented a one-hour activity today.
Teachers took a quick assessment survey (adapted from this page) and then identified themselves as belonging to one of the four temperaments. We then all had time to read through the following charts, and see what language applied to them:
The emphasis was not on feeling bound to one particular category, but getting some language to talk about your work style. Groups had plenty to chat about, including which qualities they clashed with.
This culminated in everybody answering the following questions on a public forum:
1. Your dominant categorie(s):
2. How do you work best? (probable strengths)
3. Where/when do you need to check yourself? (possible weaknesses)
4. What challenges you? What do you struggle or clash with? How do you deal?
5. What tips do you have for others to work well with you?
I obviously won’t be posting those replies here, but some great things happened as people had a chance to respond to each others’ posts and appreciate each other:
- People identified shared goals or work styles that they hadn’t seen before.
- People commented on how some perceived weaknesses can also be strengths, depending on the situation.
- The value of having a diversity of interesting and working styles became clearer — people complimented others for excelling at what they themselves ignore or don’t do well at, even when that difference might lead to clashes.
When I was designing this activity, I was a little bit nervous that it could turn into a gripe fest, with people focusing more on the weaknesses of others than their own. Plus I have zero training in personality assessment. But everybody turned a decent critical eye towards themselves, with the goal of self-improvement. Hopefully the awareness now will help prevent frustration later. I like to think that we were modeling a good process for our students.