“Collaborative Teammate” skill at THS, SLES

Bouldering Photo

Bouldering PhotoEditor’s note: Each month of the school year, Tahoma asks its teachers and students to place special emphasis on one of the nine Future Ready Skills. Tahoma Matters will feature examples of how those skills are being taught in classrooms. This month’s featured skill is Collaborative Teammate.

When a quarterback completes a pass, it is because all 11 players on offense worked together to make it happen. Teamwork is essential in team sports. It’s just as necessary in the classroom and workplace, which is why Collaborative Teammate is one of Tahoma’s Future Ready Skills.

On a recent morning in Beverly Meeks’ classroom at Shadow Lake Elementary School, second-graders were paired up to work on three math games. After completing a game, they were paired with a different partner and moved on to the next game. But before they could play the game, the students had to collaborate and decide which game to play and who would go first. They even had to decide how to decide: Would they use rock, paper, scissors or a roll of the dice?

Being a Collaborative Teammate goes beyond simple cooperation. The object of collaboration is to encourage innovation to produce a quality product or result. The definition for Collaborative Teammate is: “Students work effectively with a team for shared purpose. Students understand that high-functioning teams produce better results than can be achieved independently.”

For second-graders in only their second week of school, collaboration means taking some risks because the students don’t know each other very well yet. Meeks said she was a little surprised at how well her students cooperated and collaborated to complete their assignments.
Before the students began working together, Meeks reviewed a list of expectations for students to help them be successful teammates. Among the expectations are: All working together; taking turns; sharing materials; helping each other; body control; making a team plan; and following the Tiger Way. Other expectations included sharing ideas, taking turns talking, asking questions, using kind words, offering encouragement and being polite.

“We had to do a lot of talking about how to work with others, sharing the workload,” she said. “They are doing a really good job.”

At Tahoma High School in Jeana Haag’s ninth grade Foundations physical education class this week, students paired up to work on bouldering, which is moving horizontally across the climbing wall without a harness. In prior class sessions, Haag helped the students establish trust, and covered expectations and safety. 

In the student pairs, one person climbs while the other is the spotter, and then they switch roles. Climbers are asked to strive for a personal best, while the spotter helps keep their partner safe, cheers them on, makes sure they don’t climb too high and helps them climb down rather than jumping. 

Haag asks the student pairs to break into two groups. One half practices bouldering and attempts to make it across half of the climbing wall horizontally. The other half of the class uses the remaining expanse of wall to take on a challenge: obstacles to complete while climbing horizontally. The obstacles involve climbing through a hula hoop that is attached perpendicular to the wall; and also removing one hand from the wall to reach back and move a clip from one cone to a second cone while hanging onto the wall.

During his turn, Rex Bayoca clung to the wall on one side of a hula hoop for several moments, looking for foot and hand holds that would allow him to maneuver through the hoop without falling off. After a number of tries, he made it through and smiled, looking relieved.

“It felt amazing,” Bayoca said.

Asked how this activity emphasizes being a Collaborative Teammate, he said his spotter helped him figure out where and how he should move next.

“We were kind of solving a problem,” he added.

Partners Will Aris and Seth Wright said the teamwork is key to succeeding on the climbs.

“It helped me because I could go to different footholds (that I couldn’t see). He was directing me and helping make it less awkward,” said Aris, whose goal for the day was to climb slightly higher than he did on the prior bouldering day. Wright said he worked to increase the distance between his holds.

On the other side of the wall, partners Katie Skevington and Hadley Johnson said they really relied on each other in their climber and spotter roles.

“You have to trust that person,” Skevington added.

At the end of the period, Haag taught the class how to correctly and safely put on a climbing harness, and how to tie a knot called a “Figure 8 on a bight.” Soon the students will work in groups of four to climb vertically on the wall, with the ultimate goal of reaching the top. Haag taught them how to check one another’s harnesses and knots, and complimented them on their work on the wall.

“I heard really good communication today, and I saw some amazing persistence.”