Being a student means learning to work in a team. No matter how good one’s personal academic score is, the skills of communicating the goals and the means of attaining them, as well as solving the emerging conflicts in a team efficiently, are the key qualities that are sought by most educators and employers. In order to train my skills as a team member, I got a part-time summer job as a reading instructor for kindergarteners and had to not only design a specific teaching strategy, but also cooperate with the rest of the instructors, so that the young learners could acquire the necessarily skills in a proper manner. Unless the management process had been split into the four key stages, i.e., planning, organizing, leading and controlling, I would not have been able to either come up with an efficient teaching strategy, or a method to coordinate the teaching process with the rest of the instructors and, thus, facilitate the perfect learning environment for the students.
As soon as the students’ background regarding reading was identified (e.g., some of the learners already knew alphabet, while the others did not), I had to come up with the methods for helping the children to develop the basic reading abilities. While the task itself was not quite complicated, with a range of teaching framework existing, I had to keep in mind the fact that, apart from me, other instructors also took part in teaching the specified group reading. Therefore, the five of us had to cooperate, creating a framework for all of us to comply with. As the oldest among the instructors, I was trusted with the role of a leader; therefore, I was supposed to plan the process and assign the rest of the instructors with their roles, which they had to play correspondingly. At this point, the project management framework mentioned above came in handy; first and foremost, I outlined the key goals, which included:
- Teaching the students alphabet;
- Teaching the students to read the key diphthongs (e.g., “ea,” “th,” “ou,” etc.);
- Teaching the students to read simple words and sentences (e.g., “a cat,” “a camp,” “We are in a camp,” etc.).
The process of setting goals, however, was all the more complicated with the introduction of the strategies for the instructors’ cooperation. As far as our actions as teachers were concerned, we were supposed to:
- Work out a means to keep in touch on a regular basis;
- Design a strategy, which we would all comply with when teaching the students;
- Be cohesive in our layout of the material so that the reading session with the next teacher should be a part of a continuous process of studying.
In order to attain the aforementioned objectives, we utilised the latest technological advances of the time. More to the point, we kept contact with the help of our mobile phones. We came to the conclusion that using Google Docs as a tool for designing lesson plans and correlating our actions was the best solution possible; with every user being able to edit the plans and provide their suggestions, the specified tool was impeccable.
The organization process, in its turn, was a bit more complicated, since each instructor had to check that the material provided by them to the students should not repeat the one that any of the other instructors had prepared. More to the point, the material mentioned above had to represent a continuous flow of information that was only interrupted by exercises and drills. The organization process, therefore, was mostly represented by the arrangement of the specified material, i.e., the rules on reading, the visual aids, the exercises and the sample words and texts. It took us about two days to come up with the materials and the schedule of teaching them to the young learners.
The leading process, in its turn, was admittedly the hardest one of all four. Despite the plan that we had designed previously, we had to shape the lessons on a regular basis and to introduce new elements to it as our students revealed new issues and demanded new assistance. For example, it was revealed very soon that a range of students had issues with proper pronunciation; it can be assumed that most of the cases were triggered by the learners’ parents engaging into “baby talk” with their children instead of providing the latter with a proper example of correct speech. Anyway, many children were incapable of pronouncing such sounds as “r” and “sh”; as a result, it was required to introduce the exercises, which would train the correct pronunciation of the specified sounds. The given problem slackened the process of teaching to a considerable degree, which resulted in a slight shift in the schedule and the following confusion. Nevertheless, the team managed to coordinate their actions and even to create a system of succession, in which the next instructor continued the theme started by the previous one, yet provided the students with new material, new exercise and a new way of looking at the subject. For example, learning the letters “a,” “b,” “c” and “d” could be followed by a discussion of the differences between the letters “b” and “d,” with exercises on the topic (i.e., putting the right letter in the gap, as in “re_” (“b” or “d”)). As a result, not only could every student drill the writing and pronunciation of the specified letters, but also the dyslexic children (three out of ten in our group) learn to differentiate between the letters, which they were constantly confusing.
As far as the leading process was concerned, I had not one, but two groups to lead, since I had to both teaching the young learners and organise the work of the rest of the team. I must admit that the motivation issue was obviously the most complicated one, since the students did not display any seeming interest in reading. It took quite a while for us, the instructors, to come up with a decent motivation strategy. To make the matter worse, because of the problems with the teaching process, neither of the instructors felt motivated enough to continue the teaching process. Luckily, with the help of a transformational leadership principle, which I used in order to encourage my colleagues, the process commenced. As far as the students were concerned, they received strong encouragement from us as charismatic leaders.
Controlling, in its turn, appeared to be the least painstaking process of all four. Though it did require unceasing scrutiny, it mainly presupposed checking our schedule and making sure that the young learners have acquired the skills that they were supposed to in accordance with the teaching plan. In addition, the process of controlling involved corresponding corrective actions most of the time; as it was mentioned above, in a number of times, when teaching a specific concept to the learners, we revealed that the children had major knowledge gaps in the specified area an did not have the background necessary for understanding what we were trying to get across. Consequently, the appropriate corrective actions in the shape of exercises and supplementary texts were provided to the learners. More to the point, at the end of each lesson, the appropriate test was carried out in order to make sure that the progress made corresponded with the initial goals.
It was only the adoption of the management process, which required the four basic stages (i.e., planning, organizing, leading and controlling) that allowed for creating the environment, in which students could acquire the necessary skills in a proper way, and where the instructors could find points of contact, soling the emerging conflicts successfully. True, one must admit that the adoption of a specific leadership strategy, which incorporated the transformational leadership style and the charismatic one, has also had its toll on the success of the project. However, if it had not been for the integration of the four key stages into the management process, the very creation of the strategy, as well as the communication process between the instructors, would have become impossible. The specified approach allowed for getting the priorities straight, as well as designing a proper model of teaching, which helped train the required knowledge in the students in as efficient and expeditious manner as possible.