Kia ora koutou and welcome to Connected Educator Month! I hope you have been making the most of the amazing opportunities on offer! This month I decided to add some posts to my blog, hoping to address the question that I am most often asked when discussing collaborative teaching with educators. Here is an excerpt from a recent email that I received from a blog reader:
I feel like I have more of an understanding of how the environment and thinking should be/look/feel but what I am struggling to understand is how a typical maths session would look? or reading? or writing? What are the kids doing, what are the teachers doing? How do we monitor and assess?!
The number one question that I was asked by tour groups coming through my school and now when I am working with teachers as a facilitator is: "But what does it "look like?" What is actually happening with the teaching and learning?" I don't know if I am going to be able to answer this question with words rather than visuals, but over the next few weeks, I will have a go!
So here's the set up:
Week 1 - Getting your house in order, Forming Collaborative Teaching relationships.
Week 2 - Ideas for getting started, What could teaching and learning look like?.
Week 3 - Collaborative Planning
Week 4 - Assessment and Monitoring.
Getting your house in order.
So, your school wants to begin collaborative teaching! Before you embark on this courageous journey, there are many things you need to be sure you do. It would take more than a single blog post to cover this, but I want you to be sure that you know WHY your school wants to teach collaboratively. This is a journey that you will have been on with your whole school, principal, board and community. It will probably have been part of your first steps, as you align your school vision, values and curriculum and re-think how learning and teaching is changing and evolving at your school.
The CORE Ed MLE Matrix is a great resource to see how your school is tracking with being clear about their purpose. Definitely worth checking in and seeing if you are able to answer the questions on the matrix. If you feel confident that you understand the "why", then read on!
So, how might you go about forming a co-teacher(s) relationship? Often these relationships evolve based on friendships, location or year level, but planning strategically for effective co-teaching models is becoming more prevalent. Many schools include discussion about co-teaching as part of appraisal meetings, end of year principal meetings or send out surveys to gather teacher or student voice.
I'm always interested how schools are forming their collaborative teaching partnerships. Neill O'Reilly (Waitikiri School) is currently conducting some research as part of his CPPA study award. His emerging findings show:
(Retrieved from VLN MLE group discussion thread, Tue 29 Sept, 2015)
One cannot underestimate the power of effective communication. Many co-teachers develop "MATES" agreements - Mutually Agreed Team Essentials. This will cover aspects such as vision and values, common goals, methods of communication, meeting times and expectations, admin roles, parent involvement, process for giving feedback to each other and any other areas the team decides to include. It is a great idea to regularly refer to this document, to check that it is still relevant. Does anything need adding or changing? It can also provide support for courageous conversations that might need to take place.
Another question I am often asked is what is the optimal number of teachers working together? I too have wondered about this. I have mostly taught in a "power of 2" co-teaching partnership which I loved. As I was in a large school, we often taught collaboratively in other ways - sometimes in groups of 3, even up to groups of 6. I have asked many other teachers about this and these are some of the answers:
"2, definitely a 2 - so much easier to organise meetings and to talk together."
"3, definitely a 3 - way more ideas contributed than just in a 2 and more options for different ways of teaching and learning."
"Any number would be fine - you would just develop systems to make it work"
"It depends on your environment - some environments are more conducive to certain co-teaching arrangements."
Not really helpful if you are looking to be told an answer! I definitely agree though, that your environment needs to be carefully taken into consideration when making this decision. For example, when I was teaching at Clearview Primary, we had some spaces that worked really well for 2 teachers and some that worked well for 3 teachers. Each school needs to make this decision based on their student's needs, the spaces they have available and their staff.
Have a look at these suggestions for developing as a collaborative teacher:
Five Tips to Becoming a Strong Co-Teacher
Cheryl Doig's work on mindsets for collaboration and nested layers of collaboration is inspiring and definitely worth looking at.
Retrieved from www.thinkbeyond.co.nz, September 30, 2015
To conclude, the video below is just lovely and reminds us of how we all bring our own unique skills, talents, abilities and ideas to the collaborative classroom. Share it at your next staff meeting!
I'd love to hear any ideas,comments or questions that you have about establishing your teaching partnerships. Feel free to comment/ tweet/ facebook or email! Next time: Getting Going - Where do I start?
Collaborative Teaching Advantages, Collective Teacher Efficacy - videos from Tony Grey._
A Year Of Collaborative Teaching - Blog post. December 2014
Podcasts - collaborative environments.
Recently I have talked with many different teachers about developing their learning environments, teaching collaboratively and making changes to the ways in which they personalise learning in their classrooms. I have to say, that I believe many teachers are feeling confused by the vast amount of information that they are seeing, the pace of change, the demands for change and they just want to yell, "STOP!"
Everyone, just take a breath! Slow down! Why are we all here? It doesn't matter if we are saying MLE, MLP, ILE - we are here to do the best job that we can to teach our kids. We want them to be happy. We want them to be motivated. We want them to love school.
Now I happen to believe that working in a collaborative, responsive environment that integrates e-learning is the best place for our kids to be. They need teachers who are empowering their agency, who listen to their voices and who inspire them to reach for their "not yet". But I am one of the converted and I realise that you have to come to this place on your own. And so, I am trying to gather ideas into one place for those who are searching. Check out some great research, thinkers and bloggers who have inspired me on my own learning journey. I'll keep adding to this, but it's a start.
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.