Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reflections on Collaboration

I had such a wonderful time in both edchats today (at noon, AND at 7 PM) but I wanted to reflect on the latter chat, mostly because it's fresher in my mind, and I love talking and thinking about collaboration!

I realize I didn't do much of an introduction in my first post, but I am a fairly new teacher. I spent nearly a year doing Resource and Methods (working with students on SEPs, our version of the IEP) in my first year, followed by a year working in a Behaviour Intervention program in two schools, and finally this past year I spent September - December teaching grade three at one school, before I got a position back at my original school teaching grade one.

My first two years of teaching, as a specialist who did a lot of push-in work with my students, I had a great opportunity to work closely with teachers who were more than happy to have an eager learner in their classroom who was also willing to work.

Apart from my short stint in grade three, I have always been at the same school, even doing student teaching, and I look forward to returning to this school to teach grade two in the mornings next year.

During my second year of teaching, our district jumped on the PLC model, and we began to collaborate. We were given time each week to collaborate on lesson ideas, or whatever was on the agenda, usually given by the principal. While this was not a terrible thing, as I shared in the chat, forced collaboration is far from the best type of collaboration.

I didn't see true collaboration until I left that school for a short stint. I was called on a Friday afternoon two weeks into the school year and asked if I was interested in teaching grade three until Christmas... starting Monday. Of course, the answer was yes, but my mind was going in circles. I was in my third year of teaching, and yet I had NO classroom experience other than my student teaching. I came in Saturday and Sunday to set up a classroom (it was pretty much completely empty)... I prepared a quick lesson plan, and hoped that I could figure out what I was doing pretty quickly!

Then I met her. My next door neighbour was also teaching grade three (also for the first time, she had previously done grade two and several years of literacy intervention). She was eager to help, and a friendship was formed very quickly. We both would search for resources in a school with very few resources for our grade level (this was the first year this school had an English grade three!) She would pop into my classroom at the end of the day, an I would pop into hers... the question would be "So what are you doing tomorrow?" But it was never done in an "I'm too lazy to do any planning myself" kind of way, it was always in the spirit of true collaboration. Taking an idea and making it our own. When the time came to move back to my new school, I was excited, but also worried about missing my collaborator!

When I got back to my old school to teach first grade, and it was just the same. We had our weekly meetings, but the best collaboration was done after school with the conversation that involved "What are you doing tomorrow?" I was able to learn SO much from this collaboration, and I feel it made me a much better teacher.

I remember coming in as a teacher and being worried about not knowing all the answers. I'm so glad I don't have to worry about doing it all on my own. Teaching isn't meant to be done with the door shut (unless there is someone drilling things into the wall, or some other loud ruckus that distracts everyone of course!)

So the question is, have I been really lucky to be able to collaborate in my school? Am I the norm, or the exception? Based on some of the edchat conversation, it would seem that I may be the exception. What are your experiences with collaboration? Is it just that people don't see these casual conversations as collaboration? Is my idea of collaboration mistaken? I just feel like collaboration is so easy, that I must be missing something!

(And despite my saying, tongue firmly in cheek, that I know it all in edchat, I will fully admit that I know very little, which makes collaboration so important to me!)

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