The Power of Collaboration

I was speaking with my new team of teachers about collaboration and what it looked like for them at previous schools. The responses shared were not at all what I had hoped. I’m not sure what it is about the teacher mindset, but we sometimes forget how much power comes from conversation with others. Why is it that doors are closed and ideas are “secret”? Are we all not working towards the same goal to “Better OUR students for the future”? Notice I capitalized ‘our’ because yes, they are all ours. No one can change the world on their own. We have to come together, unite and work as one. Here are a few things my team tries to do to improve collaboration:

Schedule Meetings Accordingly

When your team prepares for planning dates, be sure to have a calendar out and an idea in mind. Make sure that everyone is on the same page with time, location, and some possible agenda items you plan to discuss. If it is a meeting where a decision needs to be made, share that information prior to the meeting time. People feel less intimidated when they can see where things are going and be somewhat prepared for that journey.

Be Flexible

Understand that life happens. Yes, you just sat with your team and scheduled these meetings and sometimes, they do not go exactly as you planned. Be flexible and willing to adapt. Make room for “just in time” planning and “just in time” rescheduling when things don’t work out. At your collaboration meetings, go with the goal in mind and if you don’t get there, know that this is where you would like to start for your next meeting.

Be Honest With Each Other

Vocalize your concerns with your team. If there is something you are unclear about, share it out. If there is a decision that needs to be made and you are not on board, ask for a vote. “Fist to Five” is a great strategy and so is a thumbs up, down, or sideways. Create a way to show how everyone is feeling about the issue that is nonverbal and nonthreatening. Teachers are the most creative people, come up with something that works for you and your teammates.

Have Fun

Laugh often. It does not have to be a serious moment of deeply rooted planning every time you meet. When planning your meetings, plan for a social gathering as well. Step out of the classroom and meet at a restaurant for happy hour or in another part of the school. If you can’t have fun doing what you love, do you really have a love for it? Make time for “getting to know you betters” and find ways to connect with your team. These are the people you will see on a daily basis. The people you want to trust to share students (Check out ClassDojo’s new share feature if you haven’t already!), ideas, and values with. Take some time to create a professional relationship with them.

The value of relationships is priceless. Working together as a team allows teachers the endless opportunity for growth. This 21st Century school rings loudly in the lessons we teach to our students daily and yet we do not model what that actually looks like. In an effort to reach our common goal, the success for ALL students, let us stand by the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

 

 

A little note goes a long way

A positive environment in the classroom leads to endless results in all other areas. Positivity sets a tone of caring, good character, and mutual respect in the classroom. Here is one way that I strive to keep the positive meter overflowing in my classroom:

Secret messages

Students love to feel important. With thirty-four students in my classroom, it is often hard to compliment or say something kind to every student every day. To ensure all students are getting a little something every now and then, I write post-it notes to my students. I try to find a thematic pack (apples for beginning of the year, hearts in February, etc.) and then make sure to address students by their name of choice (some of my kids like to use nicknames in the classroom, which makes the note even more meaningful). On the post-it I try to write something nice about them. It could be about something I noticed from the day before, “I love how hard you tried on that math problem yesterday. Keep up the excellent work!”, or it could be just a kind word, “Your smile brightens up my day. Thank you for sharing it with us today!” What I love most is seeing the expression on their face when they read it. Students feel so special. I’ve even had kids tape their notes to the inside of their binders. It’s a sweet, quick, and easy way to let your students know that they matter.

Keeping track

How do I keep track of who has received a post-it note and who hasn’t? In the past, I have used a class list and would give a student a check once they received a post-it. Now I keep track by using ClassDojo. I have a custom behavior that I click every time I give a student a post-it note, giving me immediate information on who still needs a note!

Invitation to students

Another addition I added over the years was the idea that students could write kind notes to each other. This was even more meaningful because students took the lead in empowering each other. How awesome to come into a classroom where kids were complimenting their peers, in writing! It was such an inspiring and heartfelt moment as a teacher.

The power of kindness conquers all in the classroom. Children learn from each other and care greatly about recognition. If you’re thinking of incorporating some new ideas into your classroom next year, consider this to be one of them!

 

 

The power of positive reinforcement

It was report card time and I wanted to share with my families how grades were determined in the behavior section. My behavior grades were based on ClassDojo. One parent mentioned that I seemed to use the negative behavior feature far more than the positive. I went back to my reports and noticed this parent was correct. I had far more negative activity than positive. My focus was off and I needed to find a way to use ClassDojo in a more positive manner.

After a long dialogue with my class, we came to the idea of “First to…”. We turned ClassDojo into a reward game. We would clear all points and then set a goal for how long it would take for all students to earn 10 points. If it took 10 days to earn ten points, we would clear points and set a new goal: 8 days to earn 10 points!

This system allowed students the opportunity to reflect on their behavior. They could ask questions like, “How was my day? What might be some things I did today to earn a Dojo point? What might be some things I can do today to earn a Dojo point?”

We also acknowledged students that made it to a certain number in a given amount of time. For example, students competed to be the first to make it to twenty-five points in a month. When student’s reached 25 points, we celebrated as a class and acknowledged students at the end of the month.

While it was still necessary to give negative points at times, the positive points began to outweigh the negative. The shifted use of ClassDojo motivated my students and instilled reflection within their learning day. Moreover, parents were much more excited about their child’s progress and ultimately more supportive of me as a teacher!