Transforming Teacher Relationships on Teams (by Matt Foster of

By Matt Foster

After car duty, one teacher walked into his partner’s room and complained, “I just can’t stand working with her! All she does is talk about herself and her classroom. We would get so much more done if she would just do her job.”

You know it already. The teachers on this team need to strengthen their relationships. They’re not focusing on student needs effectively.

Teams go off track for a variety of reasons, and in this post, you will be equipped with four ways to transform the relationships on your team. Here they are:

  1. Increase Ownership of Students
  2. Prevent the Villain
  3. Prevent the Victim
  4. Celebrate Each Other’s Successes

Increase Ownership of Students

When you attend team meetings, do you look to see whose student data is the highest? That’s not ownership of all students. That’s competition, not ownership. Here’s how to increase ownership of students:

  • Set 2-3 team goals for student learning data.
  • Team goals could include decreasing gaps between student groups, increasing passing rates, or growth from beginning of year to end of year.
  • Measure team progress towards goals at each meeting.
  • Use common assessment data to discuss progress on team goals.
  • Start talking about “our” kids instead of “my” kids.
  • Find ways for everyone to help “our” struggling learners.

You will find less tension and a healthier focus on outcomes when you increase ownership of students.

Prevent the Villain

I have caused problems on my team and so have you. Everyone does at some time or another. Whether intentional or not, you will make a misstep or omission that affected a teammate. You become the villain when you fail to take responsibility. Prevent the villain on your team by:

  • Openly talking about mistakes at each meeting (also see celebrating below).
  • Invite feedback.
  • Be kind when giving feedback.
  • Be honest when someone has upset you.
  • Don’t blame others…even those on campus who are not on your team.
  • Don’t raise your voice.
  • Avoid gossip about your team or about others.
  • Use your body language.
  • Avoid using passive aggressive communications in your body language.
  • Admit to mistakes frequently, because all humans make them frequently.

Prevent the Victim

You are a victim when you feel powerless. When you or your teammates believe their viewpoint is not valued, then you or they will resort to passive and ineffective behaviors. Prevent the victim by:

  • Addressing conflicts when they continue.
  • Avoid bickering and backbiting.
  • Hold personal conversations first when there is a conflict.
  • Victims appease and just go along. That’s not how effective teacher teams operate.
  • Ensure everyone gets to share their points of view.
  • If there is a contrasting point of view, ask that person to try to explain further.
  • Ask others if they can see the validity in contrasting point of views.
  • Invite everyone to have a voice.
  • Hold your team accountable when all do not participate.

Ultimately, a team that communicates is a team that operates. Victims do not operate, they end up just keeping the peace and doing their own thing. This is not effective teamwork.

Celebrate Each Other’s Successes

Celebrate often. Every inch of growth data is a cause for celebration. Build your teammates by finding the good in them. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Point out teammates who experience increases in passing rates.
  • Point out teachers who experience growth in student learning.
  • Highlight teachers who are helping the team reach their goals.
  • Ask those teachers to share what they think created the success.
  • Smile, laugh, and cheer each other on.

How do you strengthen relationships on your team? How does your team increase ownership and celebrate success?



Matt Foster is a learner, teacher, administrator, author and business owner. You can connect with him on Twitter @mafost or on

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