Five simple strategies to get started
Teaching can be an insular profession if we aren’t intentional about collaborating; as a result, we can become myopic in our planning and instruction. Below are five strategies to break out of this cycle and engage in meaningful collaboration with colleagues:
Create a schedule that includes collaboration time
This schedule should, ideally, come from administration. In my school, each classroom teacher meets with his/her team each day during a Professional Development Period (PDP). During PDP, teachers meet to plan units of study and lessons for their classes. We follow a structured 5-week cycle which includes:
Week 1 & 2: Planning Units of Study & Lessons
Week 3: Intervisitation
Weeks 4 & 5: Examining Student Data & Inquiry-Based Planning
Visit colleagues’ classrooms
The single most helpful tool for my professional development has been visiting colleagues’ classrooms. For example, I learned how to tackle a learning target that I was struggling with by watching another teacher in my grade teach the same target. Similarly, I have received valuable feedback about how to give more clear and explicit instruction from fellow teachers after they observed my lessons.
Utilize Google Drive folders
If you are planning lessons or units across a team of teachers, it is helpful to share resources with one another. Google Drive, Dropbox, or other similar platforms make it easy to facilitate sharing. I have seen teachers even alternate who will plan ELA and math, depending on their strengths.
Develop an instructional team to create units of study
I work in a specialized school for students with special needs, which means that 100% of our students have IEPs and unique learning styles. Though we receive curriculum that is theoretically ready to implement, it always needs to be modified for our students. In order to streamline planning, we have created teams of teachers that meet after school to differentiate material and align curriculum to students’ IEP goals. Ideally, these teams are paid for their time. If that is not possible due to budgetary limitations, administration may be able to give teachers an extra prep to the designated teachers on the instructional team.
Use protocols to ground teacher meetings
Protocols can help ground our conversation and provide purpose to the brief meeting time that you have with fellow teacher colleagues. Some helpful protocols can be found on School Reform Initiative. The protocols that I have used most have been: Tuning Protocol, Consultancy Protocol, Chalk Talk, and Three Levels of Text. If you would like a folder of protocols and note-taking resources for teacher team meetings, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will share a Google Drive folder with the resources I most commonly use.
Umaira Khan-Tanweer is a school-based Instructional Coach with the NYC Department of Education. She has ten years of experience working with youth with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, as both a special education teacher and a licensed social worker.