Rekindling the Team Flame

Posted on by Elisabeth Tobia

I once knew a set of co-teachers who were much like an old married couple. They had been teaching together so long, they finished one another’s sentences and intuitively knew when to come to the rescue of the other when certain tactics weren’t working with the young children (or with certain parents).

They were friends, of course, but when friends go “into business” together (and yes, running a classroom of preschoolers is quite like running a small business) there are many challenges to the ties that bind. One would go through some problems at home that rendered her hypersensitive and reactive to all but the most benign comments; the other would become so attached to a new method of teaching that she was blind to compromise. External factors weighed in as well–enrollment shifts, licensing challenges, management changes, and increasing demands for quality improvements began to feel as important as the core mission they loved (educating children and serving families). After several years, the relationship itself was as worn and tired as EC3’s old gym floor.

As luck would have it, a conference came along that interested them both–so they both attended. This was one of those rare conferences that happens out of town over several days, giving these teachers–these coworkers, these friends–a chance to escape all the “daily detritus” of work and home in order to have a new side-by-side adventure.

And what an adventure it was! They returned to work as though they had come out of hibernation–full of new plans and ideas for the classroom, yes, but also renewed in their friendship, their partnership: their “marriage.” Their rekindled affinity for work and for one another had a discernible impact on the children in their care, and their coworkers took notice as well.

I learned a lot from this experience, and not just for employees (although how many of us have wished for sending away two bickering colleagues to “get it worked out”). This same process works for families and for couples and for real business partners and for old friends. It doesn’t work magically, mind you–but if there’s never any change in the scenery, how do you know the next act is on?

Go ahead and take that family vacation. Budget for the staff retreat. Establish “date night.” But spend the time focused on LEARNING something new–together–and see if it doesn’t pay dividends to both the individuals and the collective.

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