Teaming In Your Classroom

When I look at this Boeing 747, I wonder how many teams it took to build this plane. In fact, how many teams of teams did it take? Teams seem logical for any big project or large amount of work, even necessary. For instance, if I were to try to build one tire for this plane, how long would it take? Years? Decades? Is it even possible for me to build a tire on my own that could meet the specifications necessary to be a tire on this plane? Teams of Teams made this plane possible and teams of teams keep them flying each and every day. 

Now consider this pencil. Could I make one on my own? This everyday fixture in our lives might be more complex than we realize. If I were to make this pencil on my own, I’d have to know how to make graphite. Where does one mine for graphite? How do you smelt it? Heck, I do I know if I found some!

Then consider the wood. How do you make the wood piece in the shape of a pencil with a precise, open cylinder in the middle for the lead? I think it’s two identical pencil halves, but I’m still not sure how to make that half from wood. Would I use wood pulp to form the shape? If so, how do you make wood pulp do this? 

Paint. How do you make paint? I can paint things as an action or a verb, but I have no idea how to make paint on my own. 

Now, the metal strip here I think I could make. Some smelting of metal would be necessary, but I think I could do it with some research. 

Finally, what about the eraser? What is an eraser anyhow! I have no idea where to begin with this one.

So, it takes teams of teams to make something that seems to be as simple as a pencil. Teams to produce the materials to make the pencils. Teams of teams are required to manufacture the pencils. At the famous Ticonderoga pencil factory in Macon, Georgia  there are several specialized teams that makes this pencil reach our hands. There are production teams, maintenance teams, janitorial teams, management teams and sales teams, and a team of accountants, and so on. Teams of teams are required make these pencils and to put these pencils into our classroom with such ease that we can easily take them for granted. 

It’s fair to say that progress in our society revolves around teams, and our class rooms, our students and their individual and collective outcomes are no exception. In fact, we gather in schools specifically for the interactions between teachers and students. We gather to facilitate interactions between students. We ask them to listen well, develop quality communication and we expect them to develop these skills while learning subjects. Teams are that natural extension and deserve an explicit effort on the part of teachers.

A fire will burn out without fuel, heat and oxygen and Teams may be similar in that way. Without a common and explicit goal, quality information and skilled members, teams of all stripes will cease to exist. Imagine making that Ticonderoga pencil again. This time as a team. The members of this team all need to be clear about the expected outcome, a well crafted pencil. Also, they will need knowledge and information to make progress possible. Finally they would need excellent feedback and updates about their progress. How well is the lead writing? Is the paint glossy and true? What is an eraser, have we figured that out yet?

Simply exchange the idea of making a pencil and insert anything a team in a classroom might make, a map of their math knowledge, a model of plant growth, performing a song, synthesizing similarities across ancient civilizations. The needs are the same and the possibility for outstanding results exist when we feed teams like we feed a fire. There is a way to light up our classrooms with the bright heat of teaming well.

One comment

  1. Homo sapiens are the best at teaming for sure. Our ability to design and build space shuttles is a perfect example of teaming. My godfather retired from Titan and used to tell me stories of how his team would be responsible for a single part in the rocket and they would dedicate a couple of years on that single part. Any mistake in the ticket would cause the rocket to fail. Everyone do your job is a simple philosophy but very necessary in the classroom. Unfortunately, behavior often presents a big obstacle.

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