One thing that I think makes being a teacher easier (besides making a person a better teacher) is collaborating ideas with others. I have been blessed at every school so far to work with many people who love sharing ideas. Even now, everyone on the English hall goes around sharing ideas. A lot of people have great ideas, and the cooperation creates a fantastic environment. This is probably one of the reasons I like teaching high school.
In fact, I think this is probably the way teamwork should go. I don't know for sure, but I have spent 3 years on the middle school level where they practice the teaming strategy. About 4-6 teachers are placed on a team where they have mostly (or all) of the same students, and the idea is that they are to work together in order to best serve the students and provide consistency. I do think that there has to be a more efficient way to do teaming because I have seen a few recurring issues with it despite how great a team may be.
#1 There are always extra meetings when you have a team. You have to have your department meetings, your regular school meetings, there are (of course) parent/teacher conferences, and then you have to take time to meet as a team. I have seen a contrast in the amount of time that frees up when you don't have that extra team.
#2 Everybody tries to be almost the same, but really not everyone is the same. So, somebody doesn't fail a kid in his/her class (even if the child deserves it) because nobody else on that team is. The teacher starts to wonder if there is something wrong with him/her because he/she is the only one struggling with that student.
#3 Somebody doesn't like the way another person is doing things in their class. It creates unnecessary tension. People who should get along start judging each other (for no good reason really). It's mostly that Mrs. Teacher A is not doing things the way Mrs. Teacher B is doing them and Mrs. Teacher B is not happy with that.
People cannot possibly all be the same no matter how hard they try. I have also found that, most of the desired cohesion is maybe more than anybody needs.
Oh, and that does bring me to another point...
#4 Kids LOVE to use it as a tool. Mrs. A let us do it. So, why can't you, Mrs. B? I like Mrs. A better.
I think it's good for the students to learn that all teachers are different and just do things different ways and that is okay. This might be the difference between the ages in middle school and high school. But I haven't seen it with high schoolers. They just seem to accept that every teacher is different and they need to adapt to different teachers.
Okay, so with all that said, I DO see SO MANY positive aspects of collaboration...WHEN it is done in the better interest of others. I'm getting GREAT ideas from other teachers. And I do believe that this is the teamwork that fuels our energy, frees up our time, and increases our passion for teaching.
I also see the positive aspects of having teams.
#1 Everyone plans a conference together. No teacher is alone to be targeted and harassed by a parent. That is a VERY important thing.
#2 It does provide consistency and, if there is a child who needs help, more people are able to get together in order to help that child.
#3 It is a lot easier to plan events and field trips because the students are always going to the same group of teachers.
#4 It can help the school better organize schedules for students.
So, now I seem like I'm contradicting myself, right?
I'm just reflecting on the positive and negative aspects of having a team.
However, MAYBE just MAYBE it isn't so much the mechanism as it is the people and THEIR attitudes.
Because, honestly, I have even seen teachers in department meetings who are supposed to just be sharing ideas turn it negative. One teacher has an idea and another one says, "Well, I wouldn't do it that way." Why say that? Are you better? Some teachers are not as interested in really getting good ideas as they are in getting recognized for their ideas.
So maybe, despite what the structure is, the root of the problem is selfishness. I don't know if that is it for sure. I'm just reflecting.
All I know is that I have been working with some great teachers these past 4 years who love sharing ideas. I have been taking other people's ideas and using them, and other people have been taking mine. Actually, during my first year of teaching, I created a puzzle for adjectives and nouns. The students had to put the puzzle together in order to match up the adjective with the noun it was describing. The next year, I saw my puzzle format (that I drew by hand) being copied and used by a math teacher for math problems! Ha! It does feel good to see an idea like that.
A great teacher I was fortunate to work with (you know who you are ;) ) Had an idea where students chose books to read. Then, in final-four format. They went head-to-head to defend why THEIR book was the best! That was such a great idea. I am definitely going to use it.
I knew a teacher who was great at making things artistic. For example, each student would take a difficult vocabulary word, make a poster about it, and write a paragraph on what the word was about on the back. She'd cover up their names, put numbers on the posters, and then the students would vote on the most convincing one. It was a lot of fun.
So, I know this is getting long and I seem to be going nowhere. I was actually going to write this blog to announce that I am going to be posting teaching ideas on here (my own and that of other teachers) for all of you to read and comment on. Because even a GREAT idea can be made better. Sometimes somebody can pick up on one little thing and help the lesson tremendously.
I somehow felt compelled to write about collaboration in general. But ANYWAY, I am going to start posting a variety of ideas on here. And I'm excited to see what other people can add.