Teamwork Makes the STEM Dream Work

Dr Eucker Message Image

Years ago I read An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination and Being Prepared for Anything, by Chris Hadfield. After spending 4,000 hours in space on several missions to the ISS, he reflected that it was moment-to-moment triage on what will kill you next. High trust teamwork is non-negotiable for survival. Early in astronaut training, each candidate is measured as contributing, neutral or needy. All enter the program needy and must quickly become contributing to continuing.

This book framed how I think about both my personal and work life. Social context gives meaning. For those of us in education, it is a human endeavor and all about relationships around a sacred mission to provide an education for the children entrusted to us each day. Are my encounters a +1, neutral or -1. Do I bring a +1 daily to my family and workplace? How do I respond to a persistently -1 personality?

This past year has created global stress on most: families, schools, health providers both physical and mental, social services and just about every other sector. How we cope as individuals runs the spectrum from resilience to being crushed.

Two reflection pieces ran in the New York Times this week capturing this spectrum. One was a woman in Tampa who cried every day as she drove to work enormously stressed. This triggered her spiral into addiction and she chronicled her journey to recovery. The other reflection was how one person made a conscious decision to not ruminate about past mistakes, but to be healthier, physically, mentally and spiritually.

Over the past few weeks, the Teacher Task Force has been meeting weekly to really dig into getting a complete understanding of the challenges impacting the Secondary Schedule process and how to best innovate in order to accommodate the needs of students and teachers. It has not been easy work, but this team has shown up being the +1 each time, and I would like to thank them for their courage, patience and commitment to STEM.

There has been a lot of discussion across our entire community over the last few weeks that has led to productive, as well as destructive, outcomes. Leading a school of roughly 1,750 students and over 175 staff members in a pandemic has its share of challenges, but it also has its share of accomplishments.

This Task Force embodies what it means to be a part of a team that is working together for the greater good, setting aside their own personal agendas and wants in order to maximize the outcome. The ideas for improving school culture are creative and innovative and we are looking forward to implementing them next year.

The past few years have been hard on our staff, students and families in so many ways. STEM wants to build on the culture of teachers feeling supported in their classrooms and with their instruction so that they can be successful teachers to their students. Preparing our teachers to be successful through specific support structures will help to reduce teacher stress that can get in the way of meeting their full potential. STEM can’t solve every problem, but we can find ways to improve where we can in order to create a better environment for all.

This coming week, secondary teachers will get their first opportunity to view the master schedule for the new school year to see firsthand what they can expect for next year, given all of the updates and accepted proposals from the Teacher Task Force. We will also hold a Student Forum and a Parent Forum this week to share with our community the work that the team did, as well as answer questions from our community.

STEM is a magical place where exceptional students thrive and creative and innovative teachers are key. A workplace where we all work toward +1 will transform our school’s culture for 2021-22. Culture belongs to all of us and we each have a card to play.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our amazing PTO and community members who helped organize our first ever STEM Happiness Hour. Back in the day, we used to hold staff gatherings at a local restaurant so that our staff could be together and foster that positive culture. The Leadership Team and STEM PTO recreated that opportunity for our staff to come together for the first time as a whole during this COVID world and I am truly grateful for everyone’s hard work and dedication to making this event so special for our entire staff. You are truly a +1 and then some!

Happy Earth Day,

P.J. Eucker PhD
Executive Director

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