Three Strategies to Ease Tensions and Improve Teaching and Learning


What Gets in the Way of  Teaching and Learning

Teaching and learning are the two most important aspects of education. Sometimes, adults will get in the way of teaching and learning.  Recently on a Facebook group, someone asked, “what stresses you out about the field of education?”  Surprisingly, most responded that the adults, not the children caused the most stress. Responses came from classroom teachers, principals, and assistant principals. Many called out their colleagues, principals, parents and district administrators. No one was immune! Unfortunately, the informal survey showed a glimpse that many educators are unhappy campers. Furthermore, they are unhappy with each other.  Many felt that the adults cause too much turmoil and it hinders the educational process. So, what do you do when the adults get in the way of teaching and learning?

Each day teaching and learning is what is supposed to happen in schools. Each building is its own microcosm of people, personalities, systems, etc. Because staff members are human, people and personalities will clash. When clashes happen, as a teacher or administrator you may lose sight of what’s most important. Teaching the students is the most important goal and ensuring their academic success. 

Unhappiness and Stress

People and personalities may clash because of various things. Sometimes stress about lack of resources causes dissension among teacher teams. Often, district mandates and standardized testing overwhelm classroom teachers. They may feel those district administrators are too far removed to understand what goes on in the classroom. Principals also feel that district mandates are often a one size fits all approach to education. Then district administrators must deal with federal and state policies that are not always in the best interest of students. Consequently, everyone is unhappy with each other. Some of the unhappiness stems from things that you cannot change; however, as a team, think about the things you can change. Here are three strategies to a process of change and healing among colleagues.

Revisit the Mission and Vision

First, does every teacher and staff member know the mission and vision of your school? Revisit both for clarification. Discuss what the words of the mission and vision mean to each person. Is the team living and breathing it? Or are they just words on a piece of paper? What words stand out or resonate? Also, are the mission and vision outdated and need revision? This can be an eye-opening experience for all team members and help to ease some tensions.

Review SMART Goals

Second, review and revisit SMART ( Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time-Based) goals. Every school creates a school improvement plan. Normally the creation of the plan is collaborative and includes input from representatives of teacher teams, parents, administrators, and community. During this time teams revisit previous objectives, goals and data points to see what type of progress was made. From there new SMART goals and expectations are set for the upcoming one or two years. This inclusive process is a perfect time for school teams to come together to discuss and air out any misconceptions or hard feelings. Also, it is a great time to  participate in some team building

Implement Team Building Activities

Third, team building activities are a must. All staff members must understand that as a team you rise as one or fall as one. Remember there is no “I” in a team! Lift each other up through support and collaboration. Team building activities help members to understand each other better. Everyone has strengths and weakness. Another person’s interests are different from yours. Activities are to improve people’s perceptions of coworkers. Also, these activities can get to the core of disagreements, so that people can work towards what is important.
So, team building improves interpersonal relationships among teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators. When these relationships work efficiently, teaching and learning can come to the forefront again. Also, a great book for all team members to read is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Although the book is the viewpoint of a former CEO, the concept is applicable to any occupational field.


Teaching and learning are the two most important things going on in a school. Remember the adults are there to facilitate and make sure these two things happen daily. If the adults are not on the same page, the students suffer. No one wants that to happen. Also, there is no need to stress out each other. So, remember change happens with each team member. Three strategies can make a difference. Revisit the mission and vision.  Then review SMART goals and edit if needed. Lastly, support and lift each other up.



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