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Building a Team Mindset Into Your Classroom Culture [Episode 136]


Click below to hear about building a team mindset:

When I was a classroom teacher without any kids, I had no idea of the correlation or commonality that being a parent and a teacher would have. Now, being a parent, I would do some things differently and have a different lens on, which is why I’ve loved doing this series on things I’ve learned from parenting that can apply to teaching. In this episode, we’re wrapping up this series on ways to build a team mindset into your classroom culture. 

Classrooms and families are very similar in that they’re both run as a community or unit. Even though each person has individual roles, everyone needs to function as a whole. I know that building a positive and inclusive classroom culture is so important, but I’m also discussing ways you can build a team mindset, get your students involved, and have them get to know each other. Being the leader of your classroom, you will show them how and explain why it’s essential in building a classroom culture.

Managing your classroom isn’t just about disruptive behaviors or challenging students. It’s also about how your classroom functions and the feelings students have within your four walls. Personally, I want my classroom and home to be a safe place with positivity and inclusion. So, if you want to create the same in your classroom, make sure you build a team mindset into your classroom culture!

Topics Discussed:

  • A quick overview of the series and the previous topics I’ve discussed
  • Defining what it means to build a team mindset 
  • How to get students involved and why being open shows them perspective 
  • 3 things you need to do at the start of the school year to build a positive classroom culture
  • An easy and small practical tip for checking in with your students that allows others to get to know them

Resources Mentioned:

Related Episodes and Blog Posts:

Connect with Rebecca:

More about Secondary Science Simplified: 

Secondary Science Simplified is a podcast specifically for high school science teachers that will help you to engage your students AND simplify your life as a secondary science educator. Each week Rebecca, from It’s Not Rocket Science, and her guests will share practical and easy-to-implement strategies for decreasing your workload so that you can stop working overtime and start focusing your energy doing what you love – actually teaching!

Teaching doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to simplify your secondary science teaching life so that you can enjoy your life outside of school even more. Head to itsnotrocketscienceclassroom.com/challenge to grab your FREE Classroom Reset Challenge.

Rebecca 0:00
It’s officially the last week of June, which means it is the last week of our series of episodes where I’ve been sharing things that I’ve learned from parenting that apply to teaching. And so so far we have talked about using refrains to train student behavior, and episode 133. We’ve talked about prioritizing relationship over being right in Episode 134. And then last week, we talked about using anticipatory conversations, to be proactive about defusing chaos. So that was episode 135. So if you missed any of those, I highly recommend going back and listening to those. And today we’re going to kind of wrap up this series, which I know some of you are very ready to do. But I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Especially if you’re not a parent, I hope you’ve still found the analogies to parenting applicable to you in your classroom. But we are wrapping it up today. So and we’re just going to talk about how to build a team mindset in order to manage your classroom because I have had to build a team mindset in order to manage my home. And I’m going to be perfectly honest with you all. This is something I was not intentional about in the slightest when I was teaching full time. You know, I’ve told you in past episodes, some of these things I’ve done in parenting, I’ve realized after the fact Oh, like I was doing that in my classroom, subconsciously, you know, without intention, but I was doing it, or I’ve been really into trouble, like I did this in the classroom. And now I’m going to do it in parenting. This is an example of something that I have started doing in parenting out of necessity. It’s been critical and foundational as our family has grown. And it’s something I’m still really learning how to execute. But I’m looking back on my experience in the classroom. And I’m like, this would have been a game changer if I had known to do this. And so I’m hoping that kind of sharing what I’m still very much a work in progress on will still be helpful for you guys and maybe inspiring for going into the new school year. Inspiring feels like too strong of a word. I’m not trying to say I’m like a motivational speaker here. But maybe a better word is stimulating of like ideas for how you could potentially apply this to your classroom. So let’s get right to it. This is secondary science will provide a podcast for secondary science teachers who want to engage their students and simplify their lives. I’m Rebecca joiner from it’s not rocket science. As a high school science teacher turned curriculum writer, I am passionate about helping other science teachers love their jobs, serve their students, and do it all in only 40 hours a week. Are you ready to rock the time spent in your classroom and actually have a life outside of it? You are in the right place teacher friend. Let’s get to today’s episode.

As always, I want to start off by talking about like what do I even mean by build a team mindset. And this is something I’ve really been thinking about a lot in the last few years as it’s gone from just being a partnership of me and my husband to then now we have this new child and very quickly after now we have two kids, then we added a third, we now it’s not just a partnership, we have this like little micro community in our home of people we live with, you know. And I think about that with my classroom too. When I think back to those years, and it’s not just me versus you. It’s not just mom and the kids, Mom versus kids or teacher versus my students. It’s us as a family unit. It is us as a classroom unit. Like that is an important thing. Yes, we are all individuals. Yes, we all have roles, like I have a leadership role and an authority role in the classroom, and in my home. But at the same time, we are also still a community. And we need to function within our individual roles, but also be able to function as a whole. And one of my refrains, like I mentioned in Episode 133, is there’s only one of me. And for my kids, there’s three of you. So I’m constantly Hey, there’s one of me, there’s three of you in the classroom. Hey, there’s one of me, there’s 30 of you. So I need you to do XYZ to help us. So here’s an example of hobbies as a parent. Like I said, I’m constantly saying a repetitive refrain in my house is, you know, there’s only one mommy and there’s three of you. And I think articulating that is an important visual, especially for my oldest who watches a lot of sports footage. His like ideal use of screen time is to watch ESPN, and he’s six years old. He’s always been this way. Ball was like his first word. He’s like obsessed with watching sports of any kind on TV Live. It doesn’t matter what it is, even back in May, he got so into the Kentucky Derby, in horse racing, and then he wants to watch basketball, all the things. And so I think it’s a really good visual for him as someone who understands man to man coverage and zone defense to be like, read the play, like read the room, just like you read the field, or you read the cord, there is me. And then there’s all of you people. And so giving them that visual is really, really huge. And then from there, once I’m articulating the truth, I’m giving us all perspective here. It’s, it’s a good perspective for me, too. When I feel overwhelmed, or like, why can’t I do this? And I know that y’all feel that in your classroom? Because you are telling it to me in your DMS, you know, you start to feel defeated? Why can’t I grade? All these papers? Why can’t I manage this class of 35, because there’s 35 of them, and you’re only one person. So I think stating this truth at the top is so important, it’s a reminder for them. And it’s a reminder for you of what the ratio is here of one to however many, if you’re comparing to your kids or your students, that’s a perspective shift, it should give you a little encouragement of like, of course, this is hard. Even if you just have 10 or 12 students, that’s still 10 to 12 times more than like you as an individual entity. Of course, it’s hard, but it also gives them perspective to, uh, yeah, you see me as an authority figure, but I’m still only one person, and you are a lot of people. So reminding them of that truth to give perspective is critical, then from there, allowing them in, I think this is especially hard for me as a control freak, but especially so in my home, when with the ages of my kid, it’s so much easier for me to just do stuff by myself, my default is like you get out of the way and let mommy just do it. But they will never learn. If I keep doing that. I need to allow them in same in the classroom, they will never learn. You know, I’ve talked a lot about how one of the ways I decrease grading of labs is I grade only one section of the lab, and then I trade in grade. And they pure grade the rest not like for a grade the rest would just be like completion points, but just to get feedback. And people are always like, well, they’re so bad at it. Okay, yeah, my six year old is also terrible at cutting produce, but he’s never gonna get better unless I give him a chance to practice. And I say that, when I hope you hear me say this with understanding and love and grace, like, I am terrible at this. So I just want you to know, like, you are probably better than me at this. But we really need to push to let them in. They can’t help us. And we can’t have this team, if we’re constantly just shoving them down and trying to like do everything up by ourselves. So we have to let them in to helping. And that’s going to help equip them and empower them to realize they can do a lot of things because I think sometimes when we invite them in to help us, they immediately shut down and say no, because they don’t feel confident they actually can or we’ve conditioned them to be afraid of messing up. And like what that entails. That’s something I’ve noticed and been really convicted about as I’ve invited my daughter and more and more to help me in the kitchen or, you know, with the folding laundry or with whatever I have been too harsh with her when she spills, the box of Cheerios and 1000 fall on the floor. And so she’s afraid to try new things because she’s afraid of making a mistake. And that’s on me. I am trying to like rework things I’ve conditioned them to do by excluding them or caring more about their mistake than like caring more about them, you know, so it’s a lot I’m working through right now. But I just want to say like you gotta let them in, it’s going to be harder on the front end. But it will help longer in the long run of this. And the other thing I’ll say too, is like, if they complain when you’re inviting them in to help you and see your classroom as a team, see your home as a team. This is where I bring in that refrain I mentioned in Episode 133. Like, ooh, if you’re complaining that sounds like a problem and your problem solver. And if they’re still complaining, I say, again, let’s offer more perspective here. Here’s what mommy’s doing, or here’s what Mrs. joiner is doing right now. And this is why I cannot help right now. But here’s how you can help yourself or with my kids. Hey, here’s how you can serve our family right now is like, go wash your hands a sip of water and then come back here and I’ll tell you what you can do next. So I think giving them the reality checks of the ratio like I said, one verse three or one verse 30, or whatever, but then also saying like, Oh, look, again, I know you don’t want to do this, but like, look at me, I’m already doing this. So I can’t also drop everything to come, you know, give you Elsa braids, okay, because I’m doing XYZ. So here are kind of your options. Another thing I’ve noticed a lot too as my kids have gotten older, is they complain about not wanting to do stuff because they just don’t want to do it. And so I’m honestly reminding them a lot like Hey, Mommy has to do stuff all the time that I don’t want to do. And you can say that to your students. Hey, Miss joiner has to do stuff all the time. I don’t want to do you think I want to go that faculty meeting? You think I want to be though, you know, a lunch monitor, you think I mean, I wouldn’t say this, but like you think I want to sit through your band concert for 14 hours where like, you don’t have a solo, and I can barely see you. But I’m doing this because I’m trying to build a relationship with you and show you that I care. We all used to have to do stuff all the time, we don’t want to do and so with my kids, too, I really remind them. I started doing CrossFit almost a year ago now. And my kids think that’s like the coolest thing ever, that mom does CrossFit. Even though I can barely lift, you know, very heavy things, especially compared to my husband. They think it’s really cool, this concept of getting strong, and they love watching Mommy get strong. And it’s really, really sweet, especially to see my daughter talk all about strength, as opposed to how she looks and wanting to be strong. But I tell them, you know, like, because they’ll watch me like a lot of times in the workout, the first 10 minutes the workout, we’re working on a move like deadlifts and you use the whole 10 minutes, you start with a small weight, and then you build and build and build until you kind of reach your max, like you can’t do any more than that. And I show them, I have to do this, I have to start small, and I have to work my way up so that I can get my muscles stronger, I can build their capacity to lift heavy things. And so I’ve explained to my kids, like, Hey, we’ve got to do little things we don’t want to do so that we can strengthen our serving muscles, and strengthen and build our capacity to do hard things and to do things we don’t want to do. And that’s like a huge part of life. I’m constantly telling them, and I know that they can’t get this concept of time and this perspective, but I still think it’s important to speak that over them of like, you will have so many things in life you don’t want to do. And you’re only gonna get better at doing those. If you kind of change your mindset and you build your strength and capacity do so by getting kind of you know, getting your muscles strengthened and toughened up to do it. That’s the context in which I use that as a parent. I’ve kind of dabbled in how I use this as a teacher too. And the conversations that I could have with them, because like I said, I haven’t actually been intentional about like, let me build a team mindset in my classroom because it just was something I wasn’t thinking about. But here’s what I would say is I think you need to start the year off just like building a classroom culture where everyone helps everyone and like getting them to have that vision and that perspective of like, we are a community we are a class. And so how do we do that? I was thinking through this, I think there’s three things you need to do. First, you’ve got to start this from the beginning, I always say these things are so much easier to start from day one. Like I mentioned with my daughter, I’ve already done some serious damage by not letting her in for years. And so now when I do let her in, she’s so nervous and messing up and being left out again. Whereas my two year old, I’ve not done any damage to him yet. So it’s a lot easier to invite him in to help me because he doesn’t have trauma. For me. That’s a strong word. But I do feel like it’s a little bit applicable here. So you got to start this from day one. I also think this starts with humility. I’ve talked about this a little bit on the podcast. But when I taught AP Bio, y’all I was so in over my head. I’ve told y’all it was my fifth prep. And it was brand new to me. And I had all these other preps and all these other extracurriculars I was running. And so I just knew from day one, I was so out of my league, and I just straight up told my students, Hey, I am so new to this, I’m learning this as we go, I’m figuring out as we go, I’m going to need your help, and I’m going to mess up. But we’re going to get to that exam and pass it together. And so I think starting with humility is huge, like start from me. And here, there is one of me and 28 of you. So you’re going to be asked to do things to help our class and to help us like do this and run through things. And in turn, like you’re going to serve our class, I’m going to serve you it’s all going to be like a beautiful, you know, mutualistic relationship here, if you want to bring in the biology connections, okay. And it starts a little things like, Hey, can you go grab this? Can you do this, when you’re doing a demo, get a kid up there to help you. You don’t need to be doing them all by yourself. You know, if I’ve talked about in the last episode, having like an FAQ sheet of the questions students always ask during lab and keeping track of them. And then writing the answers on your whiteboard and start a lab. Like when you’re prepping materials or something you can give that post it note or that sheet to another student say hey, write this, like with good handwriting, say, hey, write this on the board. So we have this during the lab. You know, there are things you can do your tech savvy kids, like, Hey, make a Google sheet right now that’s going to calculate averages of our lab data. Well, I’m like doing this, you know, give them these tasks, they can do it. And then even as little things as like, You got to push in your chairs before you leave and pick up your trash like this room will get disgusting. And no one wants to be in this disgusting room. If that’s the case, and in like they think it’s annoying to when they come in the classroom and all the chairs are pulled out and they can’t get to their desk. So let’s serve the next class by pushing in our chairs. And you know, you might have to be like, they start walking out you run and slam the door and send them back to fix it in the beginning to train in this but I think this is really important. The sooner you start this the better and lead with humility in this. The second thing I think that would really help with building this kind of team mindset and community culture would be constantly having them work with others. I do this in my house like when we’re setting the table. It’s rarely just like one kid gets to set the table. Everyone gets to play a part in setting the table And if like, you know, the two year old starts mixing up the silverware, then the four year old can jump in and help because they’re used to doing things together. So in my classroom, we do so much with our neighbors, I call them their next door neighbors. And I switch seats regularly. I’m really passionate about assigned seats and seating charts. I think I have a podcast episode about this. So I’ll link it in the show notes about why but we switch seats ever at the end of every unit after every unit test, they’re always working with a neighbor, I’ll just be like, hey, like in the middle of lecture notes, pause and do these three parts phones with your next door neighbor, talk about and then we’ll talk about a math class. We’re doing small groups, for literally everything, there’s very few things I’m having them do on their own, like the learning process is very collaborative. I’m obsessed with popsicle sticks, which I’ve talked about before, too, because it makes I have all their names on the sticks, and I draw them and it makes the groupings random. And that really helps too, because there’s going to be a lot of personalities that don’t work well together in your class, or people who don’t want to be with so and so or whatever. But if you’re doing groups literally every day, then you’re constantly mixing up and shuffling the students. So they really know like, I’m not going to be stuck with this group for two weeks, it’s always gonna be mixed up. And when they see it’s random, it takes some of the personal edge off of it. And then I also think, y’all, I think, like learning to work with hard people is up there with like problem solving and critical thinking, as the top three most important life skills, I could teach them in my classroom. Like no matter what they go do after this, if they become a stay at home parent, if they go on to run a business, if they, you know, go on to be a subcontractor for a builder, if they like, if they go on to be a teacher, like they are gonna work with people that just are terrible to work with, or are difficult to work with. Again, let’s start strengthening those muscles now and get used to it, it will create so much less frustration down the road if they get good practice with working with others that are hard to work with. And so we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it all the time. And I tell them that the beginning of the year, that is a huge part of this class. And I understand I’m not trying to be insensitive to like social anxieties, and you know, bullying that happens and all of these little things. But I think just getting ahead of it is going to be helpful. And you can address those individual concerns that are in five oh fours or whatever, as needed. But I really think this is something I’ve even seen, like the shyest kids come out of their shells a little bit, as they’ve strengthened their muscles working on this seal that’s critical for life. And then the last thing I’ll say, I think, to build kind of this classroom culture of community and team mindset is, when you work on a team, those people know each other. And the more you know, someone, the easier it is to show them Grace phrase, my husband always says, which I know he didn’t come up with someone famous did but he always says it. So that’s how I’m attributing it to him is it’s hard to hate someone face to face. And it’s something we talk about a lot in the context of social media and how people can be like, so terrible on social media and in reviews, and in DMS. But like if they actually saw you face to face and saw that you were human, it’d be really different. And so I think our, our students need to see each other being human, and they need to see each other as individual humans. And like I said, Last episode, all humans are worth dignity and respect. And so we need to help them kind of get to know each other in really small ways. And I think that starts with you leading, you have to care about them. And you have to care about them caring about each other and prioritizing that, like, Hey, I don’t know how you talk in other classes, or in the lunchroom in the hallway. But that’s not how we talk in here. And we don’t treat each other that way. Period. I’m a mama bear out on this, you know, the every time I go by my old school, which we do a lot just because we’re in a small town. And so, you know, we go to the football games and baseball games, it’s like an activity. When I see my old boss. He’s constantly like, When are you coming back? Like I’ll make a position anytime you want. And I always joke about like, Oh, you don’t want me to come back because XYZ or you know, you would hate this, that idea or whatever. But I do joke, my mama bear energy would be so different. Because I’d be like, no, like, you will learn to treat each other with respect, you will learn to get along because you’ve you kind of have to for this year. But one really practical way I want to end with doing this is something I’ve talked about on the podcast with my chemistry teacher who I’ve interviewed now, three times. Zack Matson by something he always did in our classroom was he had this statement, a little refrain, if you will, of any news of interests. And oftentimes he would do this kind of at the start of class, like maybe while we were, you know, going over, like what the plan for the day was, or after we’d gone through homework, and we’re about to start the new thing. But a lot of times, it would just be at the end of class, you know, you got that little three to five minute buffer period, you know, maybe they’re working on homework quietly, but then you kind of want to check in with him the last two minutes, he’d ask any news of interest and it’s kind of an opportunity for people just to kind of share anything. And he created a lot of space to do this. And it was a really sweet way to know people in our class and kind of what was going on. It was especially fun question on a Monday like after a weekend to hear what people had gotten into what they done. I don’t know it was just like fun. Like I remember finding out that like so and so asked this other person In a prom in his class when he asked that any news of interest question, and I just think it’s an easy way to include that as a refrain. And if you ask it enough, like, I think those shy kids too, that may never answer the question, I still think they like feeling a part of it, and hearing maybe what other people say. So that’s just a really practical thing you can do too. I really hope that this episode gave you some ideas for how building that team mindset and that it’s not me versus you, it’s an us situation can really help in managing your classroom and really changing your classroom culture. So if it did, let me know I love hearing from you. And if you think of some ways that you can kind of start your year off doing this, that you think would be worth other people hearing, let me know send them to me, DM me, and I can share them so that other people can learn from your ideas, too. And if you haven’t left a review yet for the podcast, I would love it if you enjoyed this series at all. If you’re a parent and enjoyed it and the applications there or if you’re not a parent and thought it was still super relevant. And you haven’t left a review on Apple, would you do that? It would mean so much even if you don’t want to write a review. You know, I love those because I can read them. Even his rating it five stars is so helpful. And I mentioned a couple of other episodes, so I’ll link those in the show notes at it’s not rocket science classroom.com/episode 136 All right, teacher friends.

That wraps up today’s episode. If you’re looking for an easy way to start simplifying your life as a secondary science teacher, head to It’s not rocket science classroom.com/challenge to grab your classroom reset challenge. And guess what? It’s totally free. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you here next week. Until then, I’ll be reading free teacher friend


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