One way to accomplish this is by beginning each year’s opening in-service with a teambuilding activity. For example, in past years we have hosted family swim parties at the local pool, divided up our entire staff into teams to go bowling, and worked together as pit crews at the nearby motorsports park.
In addition to those activities, we try to give all our employees a common identity tied to the school and shared experiences that are unique to our culture and climate. For example, at Tooele High School we design a new staff shirt each year that revolves around a central theme tied to goals that support our ongoing vision to try and build a continuing sense of pride and community in our school. Our themes for the last four years have been as follows:
2016 - We are One
2017 - Be the Change
2018 - Strength in Numbers
2019 - Purple Reign
We’ve also put out our annual message on such smaller ticket items as lanyards, flash drives, pens and pencils, stationery, and pins. But regardless of the item, our philosophy remains constant at THS: we are all about kids, and we are going to give our best effort on their behalf to enable them to achieve their potential academically, emotionally, physically, and socially. The same philosophy extends to all other Tooele County School District schools.
Each year part of the professional development for our faculty involves choosing a new book around a common theme designed to improve classroom instruction and/or get better at something we would like to know more about. For example, this year we are reading Teach Like a Pirate, covering one chapter each month to not only improve classroom instruction, but also to explore new and better ways to foster relationships with our students. Across the district, the book Culturize by Jimmy Casas has been used in a similar way. We meet monthly to discuss the assigned chapters that everyone is supposed to read in advance, and then we talk about how best to incorporate those ideas into the classroom.
In addition to the monthly book talks, we have divided our staff into various committees to address ongoing challenges throughout the school year. The functioning committees that we currently use are Safety Committee, Character Education/School Improvement Committee, Community Council, and Technology/Textbooks Committee.
At the end of the day, we hope we are providing outstanding role models in the classroom for all our kids. It’s tough to ask your students to work together in cooperative groups if you yourself are not willing to work and play well with others. In fact, many of the staff activities that we do in faculty meetings ultimately filter down into the classrooms.
As we attempt to build and maintain a lifelong learning community, it is our sincere hope that our students leave our schools with the ability to work in a team towards a larger goal above and beyond oneself. We want our students to constantly work toward improving individually and collectively. As the legendary John Wooden was often fond of saying: “It’s amazing how much we can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit.”
Principal Jeff Hamm
Tooele High School