There is a Filipino word that beautifully describes how being unified and working together helps accomplish great things. Bayanihan, which literally means being in a bayan (group/community), reflects the underlying understanding that the collective whole is better than an individual. Last year, Faith Academy had the theme “Better Together”. We emphasized the importance of working together as a team. Our theme verse was Romans 12:4-5: “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (NLT). We made an effort to create a Bayanihan culture in our school, recognizing that we all have a special function in the body of Christ.
We also used this approach in the school improvement process. Jenni Donohoo and Steven Katz wrote an article in Educational Leadership called What Drives Collective Efficacy. They describe four ways that educators gain the power to make a difference. If teams have confidence in their ability to have an impact on student achievement, they tend to perform better. They also describe the process of quality implementation, which involves a critical mass of educators who are self-reflective, hold high standards for themselves, and are continuously trying to improve their practice.
In order to incorporate the Bayanihan approach, we recognized that our teachers needed to embrace the importance of working together as a means of strengthening individual teaching practices, but ultimately to improve student achievement in our school as a whole. Simply meeting together is not an effective way of approaching professional development. Donohoo and Katz’s article helped us understand that the time we spend together as teams (both divisional/cross-divisional) can have a huge impact on our school if the teams focus on collective efficacy. The four ways that teams build efficacy are:
Learning Together: Time together isn’t the answer. What matters most is that a group participates in joint-work. This work involves purposely focusing on teaching challenges and recurring problems, and spending time collaboratively solving the problems.
Cause-and-Effect Relationships: Effective teams establish a system to ensure that they apply cause and effect thinking in their practice. In order for this to happen, teams need to have the space to try new things and to have a dialogue about what effect these new practices have on student achievement.
Goal-Directed Behavior: Mastery goals, as described in the article, help teams focus on new skills, are self-reflective, and help improve the team’s collective capacity.
Purposeful Practice: Practice is the only way to get better, so effective teams spur each other on to continuously improve.
Donohoo and Katz end the article by saying, “As teams recognize that their efforts are paying off, they begin to increase their confidence in each other and, as a result, push each other to do even greater things.” Encouraging individual growth, while developing strength as a team is an essential aspect of school improvement and is incredibly rewarding to see in action. It is also the way the body of Christ is designed– We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
Middle School Principal
Faith Academy, Philippines