Our Teaming Journey at Kingsford Elementary

Sue Bizerra
Principal, Kingsford Elementary School, Polk County, Florida

Kingsford Elementary is home to some of the sweetest students around, over 70% of them Hispanic and fully 50% are English Language Learners. For us, teaming gives our students a voice and a safe way to build conversational and academic language skills while daring to challenge their own thinking of that of their classmates. We know that to achieve rigor, students must have challenging tasks and the autonomy to work through them, and when they do this in a team environment, all benefit from sharing, questioning, and discussing their ideas.

Following the LSI Orlando Conference in summer 2018, our LSI Team presented teaming to the whole faculty along with data showing 14% increase in ELA proficiency and 21% growth in learning gains in the grade level that had practiced teaming the previous spring. Our awesome teachers were ready to give it a try, not just a handful, but almost everyone! The support they asked for was modeling, so our amazing ELA Coach modeled from September through November, leaving teaming tools like discussion cards, teaming tic-tac-toe, and other helpful items with each teacher as she modeled.

However, the initial glow of trying something new started to fade, and we felt we were entering a plateau, or the “mud,” as Amy Dujon so aptly called it. Leadership Team put heads together and we came up with two PD/Planning sessions for December. Week 1 we used the 5 Whys to help each grade level team determine why we were stagnating with our teaming – the majority came to the conclusion that our students don’t know how to carry on a conversation, which only pointed out more eloquently the importance of teaming for our students. The ELA Coach modeled how she uses a “Tweaking Tool,” a paper on which she reflects each day on one small tweak to help the following day go a bit smoother. Teachers were told to do this for a week and came back to share their findings. Week 2 we reviewed what we learned and then asked for any volunteers to allow other teachers to visit their classes the following week to further share ideas of how to make teaming work. We expected a handful of volunteers, and instead had 24 teachers volunteer to open their classrooms to their colleagues!

Teachers left lots of positive notes for their colleagues as they toured through the classrooms, and our Regional Superintendent added more kudos to those. Our teachers felt supported along the way, and knew that we were all in this together, that we would help each other through any rough spots, and that what they were doing for their students was courageous and vitally important. We had several groups of visitors to follow, which continued to help teachers understand the important of their work and build a sense of pride for their progress on the journey.