April Tips: It’s a Together Tips Takeover!

Apr 13, 2023

Dear Together Friends, Fans, and Family

Hello! It’s Heidi, popping out from behind the scenes to introduce myself as editor of this lovely newsletter. I also happen to be the editor of Maia’s most recent book, The Together Teammate (available for preorder now!), and so I know first-hand how much of Maia’s heart and soul went into writing that book. It’s going to be a great resource and you’ll want to give one to every Teammate in your life, I promise!

After putting so much energy into that huge writing project, I thought it was time for Maia to have a newsletter break this month! A tiny bit of Insta stalking tells me she attended a Patent Prom and threw an epic St. Paddy’s Party with her very Irish husband – some very well-deserved fun! Maia promises to be back soon, but in the meantime I invited our colleague Ana, Director of Participant Experience at The Together Group, to guest-star in this month’s Together Tips! Ana has known Maia for a VERY long time (ahem, 20 years, ahem) and has been working with The Together Group since the early days. Join along for our conversation!

Maia and Ana at the Houston Institute, 2003.

When and how did you first meet Maia?
We met in early 2003—twenty years ago! I worked at Teach For America, and given a long role vacancy, Maia and I had to throw together a massive Summer Institute in just a few months for a 100+ person staff and 800+ new teachers. We had some very late nights and early mornings, but we did really good work, and learned so much together. Most of all, we had a joyful time doing it. This is how I feel about working with The Together Group now – we’re constantly learning, doing good work, revising that good work to try to get it to be better, and always doing it in a joyful way.

How did that lead to your work with TTG?
Maia and I kept in touch through the years. Then one time she reached out and asked if I might be interested in a side hustle. I said I’d be happy to learn more, so I traveled to DC to observe a couple Together Trainings. The second day was the one where the lunch caterer did not show up. My “come and listen” instruction turned into “ quick — take my credit card and figure out food for 75 people…” (In the end the catering was just REALLY LATE but did arrive, in addition to the pizzas I bought from the place down the block, so we had a lot of food that day!)

I observed Maia a couple more times, then I started leading The Together Teacher training myself. Before the first one I led, I remember going through my slides over and over, talking them through on the plane, in my hotel room, everywhere. I got to the site 30 minutes before anyone else (and the meeting time for the team is already very early!). But, it all went smoothly, and I continue to facilitate both in-person and online many years later. Note: I have the honor of being one of few people on the planet who has witnessed the extent to which Maia is NOT a Together Traveler. Whew, hotel room explosions of clothes and power cords!

What makes The Together Group’s classes so special?
MHM is authentically who she is. She’s truly focused on doing good work and connecting with people. She is really so amazing at remembering people and connecting with them. That is central to who she is and has been, since I met her back at the turn of the century.

We are constantly making adjustments and revisions for specific groups. This is because Maia is actively thinking about the needs of the specific cohort that is in front of her for any given class. Her ability to be in tune with and responsive to the individuals and group she’s working with makes her one of the best facilitators that I’ve ever seen. I try to provide another set of eyes to make observations to help her continue to refine and deepen participants’ understanding – even though it seems like she does it so effortlessly.

Maia and Ana in New Orleans, 2023.

What impact do Together classes have for participants?
It’s really been striking me lately how empowering it is for people to hear others’ experiences in our classes. We can all feel lonely in the challenges we’re experiencing. But when people are willing to share their thinking and process, it allows others to find something that fits with who they are in an authentic way and that is really powerful.

We on The Together Team all take the vulnerability that people bring to the classes so very personally and hold it carefully. People are bringing their authentic selves to class and we want to honor that and support them to figure out something that’s going to work for them. We would never enforce any kind of system or tool! But instead we are guides, asking questions to help them come to their own decisions.

One of my roles is specifically around immediate help and office hours. Sometimes the answers people need are quick and technical – how do I add an all-day appointment to my calendar, or how do I map one Google Calendar on to another. But sometimes I have someone ask: Am I paper or digital? Well…I can’t answer that! We get to talk it through: what’s your day-to-day reality, what’s your natural tendency? Those are the moments I really treasure because I love working with people to find the right fit for them that will give them support and energy for the long haul.

What do you love about working with TTG?
It isn’t just a job; it is a calling. I truly feel like we’re helping make people’s lives better. That’s what makes me excited every day to talk about the Weekly Worksheet and Later List and Project Plans and all the rest, because these tools and mindsets really do make a difference in people’s lives. And then that makes an impact on those they are working with – school or nonprofit, they are all trying to positively impact the world around them. So the impact we have can be incredibly far-reaching.

Together Treasure Box

  • Segmenting – Always a Winning Strategy February’s newsletter had a deep dive on Maia’s writing process for The Together Teammate (aka work bursts with planned breaks) – and I just came across this ode to segmenting. This has been her style for awhile!
  • Teacher OFFICES?! What if teachers had a space of their very own to use for planning and focused work? This school made it happen.
  • Mariama’s Door Declarations! And for those of you who have your own office, how’s your signage game? Or maybe boas are more your style??