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    Dysfunctional Team
    By Anonymous

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    Our grade level team has grown tremendously - what started out years ago as 4 teachers working as a cohesive group has grown into a dozen teachers with diverse opinions.

    Add to that the fact that last year we had a team leader with very poor organizational skills. This person lacked leadership skills and compensated using gossip, slander, manipulation, and negativity. Last year's team leader created problems in sneaky ways (always instigated behind someone's back) and managed to be a vindictive bully who was disguised as a victim. This person created polarization on our team by dividing the group into targets (the "out" teachers, those teachers who this person felt threatened by for some reason) who were the targets of her meanness and the "chosen ones" (sad to say, the teachers on our team who were easily manipulated by this person's supportive appearance - some of whom this person actively disliked and disparaged behind their back as incompetent before becoming team leader and realizing that having a number of teachers on the same side would be essential), who were expected to actively or passively participate (listening to and accepting as true vile gossip without making even one little effort to find out "the other side" qualifies as passively participating in my opinion) in this person's schemes. This person's conduct was unprofessional and unethical, and included spreading falsehoods about the people on the team to parents, other teachers, and administration. Oh, yes, this person spends hours crying and moaning to various people in the front office, and sending other "chosen ones" in there to moan and groan as well.

    We have added a couple of "normal" teachers to our team, so the balance of power has recently equalized. One of these is brand new to our school, and after less than a week she told me that she had noticed a split on our team. She sees it as a group of older teachers who are set in their ways and feel threatened by a group of younger teachers who are open to sharing different ideas and strategies in order to help their students succeed. Of course, I'm pleased with her description, but that's partly because I'm included in the "younger" category, despite my advanced age! The point is that even someone brand new can see the divide in just a couple of days. None of the "chosen ones" has offered one bit of support to this new teacher (she has already joined the rest of us "outsiders" because she is so clearly a young, talented teacher). The "out" group of teachers, ironically, is the popular group of teachers among the parents, and the ones administrators hear glowing reports about from both parents and colleagues outside our grade level (though even some of *them* are starting to be poisoned by the gossip).

    Our new team leader is a teacher who has been with the school for a long time, but switched grade levels over the summer to join our team. This is a person I actually grew up with and we are very close. It is very unusual for someone to be given the position of team leader when it is their first year on the team. Naturally, this person is accepted by half of the team and viewed with a great deal of suspicion by the others.

    Last year's team leader is openly hostile and continues the same behavior, which is a long standing pattern. This person truly doesn't know how to behave any other way. This person has vocally claimed the title of Victim.

    How can a team recover from a year of such dysfunction, when there is such a complete lack of trust on both sides? The two groups actually work quite well apart, but it is clear that the higher authorities expect us to work together. Our administration is a bit wimpy when it comes to these types of situatios - they are unwilling to take a stand and end up getting bullied and caving in to the bullies. Squeaky wheels are greased, and the "normal" people on our team aren't comfortable airing the team's dirty laundry in front of administration - we consider ourselves professionals and act in ethical ways. There is no honest communication, and very little effort at civility from certain people - we're talking open hostility - snorting, eye rolling, the whole shebang. Our former team leader loves to tell our principal what "the ___ grade level team" thinks, despite the fact that this person only represents the views and interests of the "chosen ones" and does not solicit, listen to, or accept the opinions of the rest of us.

    Has anyone experienced a situation like this - this had been my first experience with anything like this, despite my years of experience. I guess I've always been lucky to be surrounded by supportive colleagues -I've heard of plenty of situations like this at other grade levels, but this is my first experience with it. Is there any hope for healing the wounds?

    Frankly, I've told my friend (the new team leader) that in my opinion, we aren't going to be able to rebuild trust or heal wounds in the near future. Finding ANY common ground is going to require effort.

    I'd love to hear any suggestions. I love the students at my grade level, and have a good reputation as a ___ grade teacher at this school, but this will be my last year if the team situation doesn't improve.

    View the original thread this idea was posted on

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