• Barbara L. Ciccarelli, PhD

The Family Experience from the Small Business to the Team-Taught Classroom



Family run businesses are quite common. I participated in the success of one from a very early age. My father had a men’s clothing store which did quite well for decades until the malls were established on the edge of town and did a number on the stores, like his, in the town center. I remember that my father was his own boss, but he also worked a lot of hours. My siblings and I liked to do the odd job for the business to spend some extra time with him. There was a sense of peace in terms of job security but also always that urgency to make the sale in that as the boss you were responsible for the overall profit.


Benefits of a Family Business

According to Inc.com, when a business starts with family members, they have a greater investment in the venture and are probably more willing to sacrifice to have success. Furthermore, they are less likely to depart if a better opportunity comes along. As Inc.com writes, “family members are there for the long haul.” A family backed business means that family members are more likely to back each other up or support each other in ideas or needs to take a break. In other words, they are more willing to accommodate each other. Customers might be more attracted to a family business because the structure mirrors the family structure and reflects their sense of themselves, their values. As Inc.com writes, it is a better marketing point than presenting a “faceless operation.”


I remember that our family business was a social meeting point for many of the customers. They would come in to have a chat with my father or my uncle whether they were interested in purchasing or not. So it wasn’t just a family affair; it was a community affair, thus, more than just a business. This connectivity in person of the past was taken over by the social media used by businesses today online.


Benefits of Family in Education

Working with family also happens in the education system though probably less often. There is the same aspect of a shared investment in the enterprise or in this case the classroom outcomes. In reference to three of his family members teaching at the same school with him, Raymond Posada states,


“It’s great working with family because you know what they’re about outside of school and you can build on that inside of school. My wife and I plan a lot together which helps us understand our strengths and our weaknesses and we can help each other see some things that we might overlook normally.”


In my case it was not only my then husband and I teaching at the same school but in the same classroom. In fact, team teaching with him, a class on the short story, was my first team teaching experience. What I loved about it, just like Posada, was planning the lessons with my ex. My ex was a creative writing graduate student, and I was a literature graduate student so we could combine our training, craft and analysis, respectively, to provide the best lectures on short stories.


We could also discuss at any time our methods for teaching or difficulties with students or hash out our reasoning for different grades on a particular student’s assignment. As far as how the students benefited, they got more small group attention from a teacher, and they had the opportunity to get different perspectives on the material, the short stories, covered in the class. It was also probably a learning experience for them to deal with a team rather than one authority or facilitator in the classroom.


I’m sure I was more motivated to succeed with this class because it was a combined venture with my ex. It was like a shared project and a creative one at that. There was also the assurance that we would both give 100 percent because we were also committed to each other. Furthermore, if one of us had a bad day or felt less than strong on a topic (or story), the other could take that lecture so that we were combining our strengths.


A Pitfall of Team Teaching

Referring back to the family run business at the start of this article, teaming up with a family member can have some disadvantages as well though I imagine it depends on the dynamic with the students. In our case, the students had set us up as good cop bad cop and, you guessed it, I was always the bad cop. Whether this was a gender issue or had to do with our teaching approaches or both is not certain, but it partly defined the classroom experience for us as teachers and for the students. Having said this, as with my father’s community like business, the students in our class seemed to appreciate the personal touch our team teaching seemed to offer.


Takeaway

You can imagine that it made for quite an intense class with the students sometimes playing on our respective sympathies, which happens whether the teachers are related or not. Still, it was the start of my teaching career, sharing life, school, work with a loved one, and what more could you ask for a lifelong learning experience?

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