Become a team that teaches itself

-by Tim Grivois-Shah, Ed.D.

What I do at TGS Educational Consulting is to help leaders and leadership teams create an organization that teaches itself to get better at accomplishing the good they want to do for their community. My portfolio of clients includes Higher Ground, A Resource Center, Pima County Community Prevention Coalition, Sonoran Science Academy, and Orange Grove Middle School, and while my work with each client is highly tailored to what they want to accomplish, we achieve our outcomes together through three key approaches:

Become a team that teaches itself.
  • Resource development and alignment
  • Technical assistance
  • Communications

Resource development and alignment

Resource development and alignment is about values, capacity, and clarity. 

The beginning of all of my professional relationships with clients is to uncover, discover, and (sometimes) recover the values at the heart of their work. For example, in my work with the Tucson Police Department, I began with a survey of officers that asked, “To be an outstanding police officer, you must be [insert one word answer]. Here were the top responses:

  • Empathetic
  • Caring
  • Compassionate
  • Resilient
  • Humble
  • Heroic
  • Respectful
  • Courageous
  • Flexible

Once we’ve identified our values, the next step is to build capacity. The advantage of a values-based approach to building capacity is that everyone in the organization can see what matters most to their work genuinely and explicitly represented in the learning. And while some of my work might look like a ‘training,’ most of the ‘learning’ ends up being largely self-taught. Typically, this happens by taking values such as empathy, compassion, or respect and developing small, bite-sized actions that align with our values and our goals. Then, we put them into practice and see how they work in real life.

Clarity, however, is essential. A key aspect to resource development and alignment is connecting values, resources ,and training to clear and precisely stated goals. What outcome should your team spend the limited time and resources available to accomplish? And how will you know that you are making progress to achieving your goals? Developing a common language for what your team is working to achieve is crucial for enhancing the success of your school, organization, or agency.

Technical assistance

Technical assistance is another key aspect of my work with clients, and refers to the ‘how-to’ aspect of doing something new. This ranges from project management support, leader and leadership team coaching, and paying attention to how well the systems we built are functioning.

With Sonoran Science Academy, for example, we are working on implementing a comprehensive approach to Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS). PBIS is a common way that schools support social, emotional, and academic achievement, and our work together has largely been about developing action plans and using data to make good decisions. What has been particularly exciting, however, is how Sonoran Science Academy used its discipline data to examine its discipline system through the lens of equity. 

I often serve as a helpful friend who can lend some expertise when teams are looking to improve the quality of what they offer to those they serve. Technical assistance is an important part of the support I provide.


Especially for schools, nonprofits, and agencies, communications is a powerful approach to achieving goals. At first, the work of identifying key audiences, creating strategies for engaging stakeholders, and taking charge of the narrative of who we are and what we do can feel too difficult to attend to amid everything else that must happen in a day.

Thankfully, there are a variety of free tools for organizing contacts, creating templates for stakeholders, and for using local data and diverse voices to tell your story. And, as your story becomes a larger part of the story of your community, your capacity to secure new resources to accomplish the good you want to do increases. Higher Ground, A Resource Center, is using its social media, blog, and email list to share its work on a groundbreaking technology for supporting youth to communities throughout the world. This is helping Higher Ground truly live its values out loud and to increase the ripples of their work far beyond their Tucson office. 

However, communications is also about hearing from the audiences that matter to our work. For example, Higher Ground and I are working on a way to organize their social and emotional learning approach to their Judo program into a format that local sensei throughout the world can use to implement their evidence-based approach anywhere. To do this, we are including sensei of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities early on in the process. Their perspective on what they need in a resource like this is already improving what Higher Ground can offer youth.

To get better at what we do, we need to create an organization that can teach itself. Resource development and alignment, technical assistance, and communications are three key approaches that will help you and your team achieve your goals and allow you to do your best work for those you serve.

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