The Power of Collaboration

Olivia Blazer

August 5, 2014

Sharing is a basic social grace encouraged and taught at the earliest age. As children grow, they are urged to share at home and in school. It is a vital life skill that children need to learn in order to play cooperatively and make friends. In fact, the children who consistently do not want to share in peer circles commonly become isolated later in life.

Sharing, or collaborating, in today’s educational market has become a veritable basic skill. We, as teachers, are encouraged to collaborate on everything from teaching styles to assessments, from data analysis to Mother’s Day projects. Why the big push? One major reason is the same reason we want our students to work collaboratively in pairs or groups – they learn best from each other. Subsequently, so do we!

As teacher evaluation styles, programs, and models evolve over time, although different and varied, each has a tried and true common ribbon running through it: collaboration. Teachers are now being held accountable for collaborating with colleagues and team members.

In a departmentalized world, collaboration could be as simple as meeting and incorporating bits of what other team members are teaching into your lessons. However, teachers must collaborate to glean information about content presented to students from each other, and then commit to delivering it to the students in a way that will be more meaningful to them, facilitating content retention. For example, if fifth graders are studying World War II in Social Studies, students solve math problems about World War II, write persuasive essays after studying about World War II propaganda, read texts about World War II in Reading class, and complete language tasks centered around that topic.

Self-contained teachers can also collaboratively plan by meeting and discussing content presented to students. One effective model is for each teacher on the team to plan a subject for the group. Division of subjects is directly affected by the number of team members involved. For example, if you have a four person team, teachers could choose to plan either reading, math, language, or science and social studies. Each teacher is charged with preparing plans in their subject area for the entire week ahead. This would include writing the lesson plan, differentiation of tasks, and gathering any materials that might be needed, such as copies, specific texts or manipulatives, etc. Teachers would then collaboratively plan the week ahead by presenting their packets to each other, explaining important details, and fielding questions.

Present and future evaluation programs are now going a step further in the direction of collaboration to include a teacher-leader-mentor piece. Top notch educators are now being required to be mentors to each other, sharing ideas and disseminating information on best practices, modeling techniques, and teaching others how to be highly effective.

What we are building, in turn, is a new generation of highly skilled, superhero teacher-leader educational coaches. This group of educators is characterized by and committed to highly effective teaching strategies, a love of lifelong learning, and most importantly, a willingness to share.

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