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The Community of Learners Dream Team

|Kelly Tenkely|
Hello Coop Catalyst friends! As it is my first post here, I will start with a brief introduction.

I started my teaching journey as a second grade teacher.  It was a hard first year where I was hit with the realities of real life.  Kids being abused, an absentee administration, standardized testing, the overwhelming feeling that I was a failure as a teacher. I almost convinced myself that I had chosen the wrong career path.  Almost.  I was a newlywed and we were still working to pay off school loans. I needed a job. I put my resume in at a local private school where I was interested in teaching.  They only had one classroom teaching position open but I figured it was worth a shot.  I got a call a few weeks later from the school office assistant, the classroom position had already been filled.  She followed with, “I know it is a long shot but would you be interested in teaching in the computer lab?”  I took the computer lab position to get my foot in the door at the school that seemed utopian (no standardized testing, Christian atmosphere, involved parents, a coffee bar).  6 years later I was still in the computer lab teaching kids (and teachers) how to learn with technology.  Last year I had to leave the classroom and germ filled atmosphere for health reasons.  This year I am working as a freelance educational consultant, writing, blogging, working on starting a school,  and teaching a virtual class on digital storytelling.

As I work on the foundation of  a new school model I find myself lying awake thinking most nights.  Last night was no exception.  As educators, we spend a lot of time working to help learners recognize their unique talents and gifts.  I know that, even now, I think of students I worked with in my early years of teaching.  I wonder how their passions have changed or been nurtured, I wonder what impact I may have had in guiding them, I dream about what their futures might hold.  In a classroom there is a lot of focus on the students that we teach, as there should be. But it occurs to me that very little attention is paid to recognizing the unique talents and gifts of the staff that make up a school.  In large part teachers are left to their own, seen only as a collection of test scores or yearly review.  This has been true in my own experience, it is only after I left my school that the administration is starting to realize some of those unique gifts and talents…except now they have to pay an hourly consultant rate for them.  If we truly want schools to become community of learners, we have to change this approach to the staff that makes up a school. We have to capitalize on the individual talents and strengths of each teacher, each administrator and specialist.  This is how you build a dream team. This is how you create a true community of learners.  Start looking at your colleagues the way you look at your students.  Start looking for and recognizing your colleagues for the unique talents and gifts that they bring to the education/learning environment.  Brag about your colleagues to students, parents, teachers, administration.  Let others know about the members making up your dream team.  Learn from one another. Be a community of learners.


*I have to be honest, it is a little intimidating to join the voices of Coop Catalyst.  This blog co-op represents incredible writers, thinkers, and educators.  I feel a little like the awkward middle schooler that just got invited to the cool kids table and isn’t sure how to keep up.  I appreciate the invitation and the conversation!


About ktenkely

Specializing in instructional technology Professional development. Consulting. Teaching.


19 thoughts on “The Community of Learners Dream Team

  1. Hello,

    After reading your first post I was very happy to see how you thought about a good and successful school community and what should be done to achieve the goals. We often tend to think that everything is going to go as planned but it surely doesn’t, and we need to be able to accept it. I also think that it’s every true when you mentioned that teachers/educators need to be recognized for their talents and gifts such as students. They put a lot of effort in achieving the student’s dream and I believe they should get recognized for it and given credit.

    Posted by Eloise Martin | November 19, 2010, 12:31 am
  2. I have to say, I work in a school now where we are all respected as individuals and our talents are recognized. We have a lot of autonomy as teachers and it really makes a huge difference. I feel like any group of hard-working and dedicated teachers that is given the autonomy they need to do their jobs could be a dream-team for a school. Yesterday we had 3 different staff present on their expertise in our staff meeting and our hope is to turn the monthly staff meetings into professional development sessions as much as possible.

    Give people some space to grow and use their talents, and you can turn your staff into a dream team. I like it.

    Posted by dwees | November 19, 2010, 12:48 am
  3. Kelly, thanks for joining us!

    I’m very interested in how you see schools treating you differently as a consultant than as a teacher. What’s your advice for teachers looking to advance a new idea in a school?


    Posted by Chad Sansing | November 19, 2010, 5:42 pm
    • Hi Chad, schools treat me more as a professional now and seek out and value my ideas. This was not the case when I was “just a teacher”. It isn’t that the ideas and support was offered when I was a teacher, but in my experience it wasn’t sought out or valued until I was out of the school as a consultant. As a teacher, my recommendation is not to wait for someone to recognize your skills and strengths. Use them regardless of who is noticing. In your corner of the school, your students and colleagues will benefit from them.

      Posted by learninggenome | November 20, 2010, 2:06 pm
  4. I agree. Schools need to value the talents of their staff and encourage them to ‘lead from anywhere’, not just the top. (especially not the top, where they are often managers rather than leaders)
    I’ve written a lot about teachers as a community of learners. It has worked really well at my school and it’s something I’m going to work on developing further in my new role next year. And I think if students and teachers can be considered part of the same learning community, the way school looks changes completely. I had an 11 year old talk about that this week. He likes the fact that his teacher talk about their learning too and it has made him understand and value the learning process itself.
    Maybe this needs to be a whole blog post! Thanks Kelly and David.
    (Kelly, great to have another opportunity to learn together!)

    Posted by whatedsaid | November 19, 2010, 5:45 pm
  5. Kelly,
    We are so glad to have you here with us…and I think your idea of honoring individual strengths and talents is CRUCIAL to our success. ….and honoring talent is part of why you are here. 🙂

    Funny. . . a teacher friend and I were just talking about this today after school–about how a team in our school needs to figure out how to work together and use each other’s strengths to do the best for their collective kids. We were talking about how complimentary the skills could be if utilized as a team rather than individuals.

    I’m anxious to see how the nations’ educators come together Monday to blog for REAL education reform. The cooperation, the sharing, the bouncing ideas should be amazing to see. I’m looking forward to yours and all the other coop members, too!

    Thanks for joining us.

    Posted by Paula White | November 19, 2010, 10:16 pm
    • @Paula, I so agree, collectively we are stronger than individually. It seems that in a lot of schools, only certain skills are valued as important. But if each person is allowed to shine we create a rich atmosphere of learning for students.

      Posted by learninggenome | November 20, 2010, 2:54 pm
  6. Kelly,

    I enjoyed reading your post. There’s a great deal there that resonates with my own thinking and experience.

    On creating a community of learners. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, and I’m convinced that, in many cases, it doesn’t happen because the structure of the school doesn’t allow it to happen.

    A case in point: this year I cover teacher’s arts programs while they go off for their planning time. The only problem is that the planning time schedules are not set up with an eye to collaboration. Every primary teacher, for example, has their planning time scheduled at a different point of the day. We talk about collaboration but, to a large extent, our profession is still built on a model of individualization.

    David is in an enviable situation and I hope that he continues to share the positive things that are happening at his school.

    And Kelly, I look forward to hearing about your work, as a consultant, and as a school-builder!

    Posted by Stephen Hurley | November 20, 2010, 12:23 am
    • Stephen, thanks for your comment. I see a lot of that in scheduling too. Schedules seem to be planned with only convenience in mind with little attention to creating a community of collaboration. I hope that together we can begin to transform this culture of convenience.

      Posted by learninggenome | November 20, 2010, 2:57 pm
  7. hello sweet.. so glad you are here.

    you know we have the lab – where kids are creating courses per passion. we’ve been asking teachers the same.. if you could learn about anything… what would it be.. how can we facilitate that. love those kindergarten faces…

    love it.. community… ecosystem.. mesh.. of learners…

    Posted by monika hardy | November 20, 2010, 1:24 am
  8. Well said. I agree with you Kelly. Forming a Dream Team of educators is important when considering restructuring education. Find what teachers are passionate about and support them. Those teachers will support students in the same way. 🙂

    Keep up the great work.


    Posted by Nicholas Provenzano | November 20, 2010, 9:49 am
  9. I met with my superintendent last week about my professional growth plan. You are bang on and actually working with the staff’s strength is one of my goals. I used to believe we all had to be moving in the same direction (ie. Technology) but I quickly realized it is much more powerful to support staff in the area of their passions! If we provide staff with autonomy and an opportunity to learn and develop their passion, the benefit to the kids is huge. Motivated staff, motivated learners. Great post!

    Posted by Chris Wejr | November 21, 2010, 12:50 am
    • Chris,

      Will you blog about this as your initiative develops? I hope so I would love to hear more about it as it develops and use it to show to other districts.

      Also, if you are interested we have had some fun discussions here on the co-op about autonomy. I would love to hear your thoughts on those conversations as well.

      All the best,

      Posted by Adam Burk | November 21, 2010, 8:14 pm


  1. Pingback: Lessons of the Long Tail for Professional Learning « The Construction Zone - January 11, 2011

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