In Part 1 of this series, we looked at how to begin building a classroom culture of team. Looking back, that idea was a bit short-sighted. See, a team needs to exist not just in your classroom but also on your campus. Your teachers and administrators have unique skills- and personalities- that can mesh for success, or clash for implosion. If you are a leader on your campus and a teacher in the classroom, you need to develop a bit of psychological prowess to identify and approach your team. How do you motivate and engage diverse learners in the class and on the campus? By recognizing their strengths and weaknesses- along with their interests.
In short, differentiation.
Pros: Wonder Woman is the perfect Idealist model- she believes things can get better, and will fight to see it happen. The Idealist often sees the world in black and white. They clearly see a path to follow and will pursue it doggedly to its conclusion. The Idealist is usually positive, and sees the best in people, so they are often the ones that are compassionate and helpful towards others. They will defend the bullied or champion the underdog because they see potential where others do not. They probably make great mentors and class/campus cheerleaders.
Cons: They can burn out if they do not take time for themselves. They can get frustrated with others who are negative or do not try as hard as they could. They can become Social Justice Warriors- which is not necessarily bad, but they can get wrapped up in a cause and lose sight of the bigger picture. Their positivity is a clash with the Cynics and realists, and while that can result in compromise, it can also result in conflict.
Role: Mentors, cheerleaders, social chairs, greeters, and tutors. Give them jobs that let them spread hope and positivity, and a chance to serve others.
The Energetic Funny One
Pros: You know this kid/teacher, they make you laugh. Witty and quick thinking, they always have a joke. They are entertaining. They are Flash-y. They come to class awake and ready to go...somewhere. They tend to be easily excited by things you talk about, and are usually pretty positive. They feed on attention, and when they feel appreciated, they are very loyal. They are the first to volunteer for new oppportunities. If they feel you genuinely care about them, then they will be your biggest supporter. But....
Cons: ...without the right attention they can be your biggest problem. Imagine a whirlwind of activity that exists solely to disrupt your class. They need encouragement, but when they do not get it, they burn out or act up. You need to be intentional with them because any attention can reinforce their actions, so make sure you properly reinforce the right actions.
Role: They want to be comic relief, so let them be. Give them a time for jokes, let them be a sort of funny man to your straight man. In class, give them jobs involving movement- cleaning up, rearranging the room, setting up activities. As teachers, they can make great "product testers." They are always willing to try new things, so let them troubleshoot new strategies or tools.
The Tech Guy
Pros: They know technology. Better than you. Like Cyborg, they almost live by and for tech. They know the new apps, the new codes, the new systems almost as soon as they drop. With minimal clues, they can diagnose your tech issue quickly- and they want to do it. By nature, they are problem solvers as long as the problem is mathematical or tech based. They often have the patience needed for longer projects and are good at spotting the flaws in systems.
Cons: They struggle socially. Computers and tech have clear-cut answers for problems and with time they can be figured out- human relationships are less defined. They can be distant or fragile, or a sort of tech bully akin to the old SNL skit "Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy." If they have been marginalized in the past, when they get power, they could become difficult to deal with.
Role: Students make great "roadies." They can help you optimize your tech, be testers of new edtech, and maybe even innovate some new solutions. Because they identify problems well, they make excellent troubleshooters. Let them help you set up presentations, or be the "go-to" student when a sub has tech difficulties.
The Superman (woman)
Pros: They ooze charisma and confidence. People like them because they are competent and successful. They are good at what they do, and everyone knows it. They are usually trustworthy, and are intentionally in pursuit of integrity. They are, for lack of a better word- a superstar. They succeed at whatever they do...
Cons: ...And they know it. This could lead to humility or arrogance. Also, popular superstars are not always popular for the right reasons. While most Supermen/women pursue integrity, some pursue glory no matter the cost. They can become so successful that they become almost alien- unrelatable to the average student.
Role: Play into that charisma and help them be a leader in the classroom. But do not start by putting them out front. Let them lead from behind the scenes. Teach them about servant leadership. If you are looking at teacher leaders, letting them experience humility will keep them grounded, and prevent them from eventually becoming that immovable old teacher who refuses to compromise. That servant leader role humanizes them for other students, teachers, and even themselves. Once that is in place, they will be a stronger and more relatable leader for all.
Pros: Yes, Rebels have Pros. In fact, a Rebel is really just a potential Superman that has a different perspective than the establishment. They are often charismatic and capable- even holding a sort of leadership quality- if not successful like the Superman. But they disagree with the status quo. Like the Cyborg, Aquamen are able to see the flaws in the system, but they prefer not to fix the problem, just create a new solution. They are excellent problem solvers.
Cons: The issue is, their creative problem solving may not exactly follow the established rules and expectations. They lack the social grace to respectfully challenge the status quo and instead want to reject social norms altogether, or substitute their opinion. They are hard headed, and often unwilling to use their natural charisma to help others, unless those others want the same thing they want.
Roles: Rebels can be innovators. Engaging them in the process of troubleshooting ideas, of being the voice of the unheard (because they will share their voice) and even having an official role as the "devil's advocate" empowers the Rebel to use their powers for good, rather than evil.
Pros: They take nothing at face value. They ask questions about everything. They need to have things proven to them before they accept them.
Yes, those are positives.
They are scientific, and they plan. Batman ALWAYS has a plan. They see potential outcomes, and their tendency toward negativity actually is a strength because they plan and counter-plan. Strangely, this leads to a weird sort of hybrid flexibility combined with rigidity. Also, they can be loners, so they can work independently, and make good risk takers- because they plan with flexibility.
Seriously, these are positives.
Cons: So, yeah. All the Pros are also Cons, if not properly motivated and aimed.
Roles: Students who are Batmen make excellent students to lead out in inquiry exercises. But make sure to monitor their questions, they can be deeper than the average question. They partner well with Flash, strangely, and provide a kind of counter to each other. Things can be tough for Teachers who are Batman. They ask hard questions and are loners. They need to make efforts to connect with others, but when they do, they emerge as leaders. They are excellent at planning things, and creating strategy.
But sometimes they really just want to be alone to think over their questions.
I love the idea of putting together a team. But rarely do we get the chance to build our own team of students or even teachers. Instead, we must learn to identify our Justice League that sits before us each day, or stands before our students. No team is without its issues, but identify the personalities and skills of those we work with is a great- and necessary start.
So, start with you- are you Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Superman, Aquaman, or Batman?
And how does that affect your teaching/leading style?
I teach Psychology, Sociology, World History Honors and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team, sponsor the TED Ed Club, and I am the Lead Innovator for LEADS CSISD (A student leadership empowerment program for 5th-8th graders). I am an aspiring administrator.