By Teachers, For Teachers
In the teaching profession today, educators are learning to work together in a collaborative environment: One where everybody works together as a team to lead, instruct, or mentor students. Traditionally, classroom teachers are used to preparing for individual practice, moreso than a group practice. They are used to being responsible for their own students, and only working together with other teachers if they need help or need an idea. However, in today’s teaching profession, many educators are being asked to collaborate with one another, as well as with administrators, students, parents, and the community. This collaboration requires a lot of time and commitment on the teacher’s part, which can be very hard to come by. In order to create a successful collaborative work environment in your school, follow these tips.
Working in a collaborative environment requires time and commitment. Most teachers only get one prep period per day, which means you need to utilize that time wisely if you don’t want to bring your work home with you. Until schools can incorporate more prep time into their school day, teachers can have to learn to be creative with their time. Teachers need to make time to work together, which means a little bit of rescheduling. They must plan their prep time wisely with their colleagues. They can try to get together before school for breakfast or after school for a quick chat.
Your administration can try and squeeze in extra prep time, possibly scheduling joint prep time. They can also explore the idea of a few half days per month where teachers can have a substitute come in, or maybe even provide a few a days a month where half the faculty meets together and the other half has a school wide learning event. Fight for the school to do whatever it takes to create more time to work together.
Teachers can build connections with one another through bonding activities and experiences. This can be something as simple as helping out in the community, or working together to create a school-wide event, or even something as elaborate as running together in a 5k race for a local charity. Any of these ideas will help to create a sense of family or community which will help the teachers grow and learn together as one unit.
Just like a strong marriage is built on communication, so is an educator’s relationship with her colleagues. In order to create a collaborative work environment among teachers, there must be a sense of communication. Effective communication means each that each individual is able and open to listening to one another’s thoughts and ideas. Each educator’s diverse viewpoints and background should not be an issue, and communication between all teachers should be beneficial. Trusted communication between all collaborative colleagues is a must if you want the collaboration to be successful.
Expanding leadership roles where teachers are doing more work can actually have positive results. When you give a variety of teachers who have great leadership skills leadership opportunities, more goals can be set, which means more work can be accomplished. By increasing leadership opportunities, teachers work together in a collaborative environment, which is what today’s schools are aiming for.
Create meaningful opportunities for teachers in which they are personally invested. People tend to be more willing to collaborate with others when they are doing something that has meaning to them. Use a survey to find out what interests your teachers and which projects they are invested in. Then organize committees, groups, and events based around the areas of shared interest. You can even allow the teachers to collaborate together and organize around their own interests. This will help them to create an even stronger bond as colleagues.
The more that teachers and administrators learn to work together in a collaborative work environment, the more they will learn about themselves, as well as each other. Each individual educator has a different set of skills and roles that they can bring to the table, as well as a wide range of information that they each possess. These unique skill sets will only help with today’s diverse group of students.
Do you work in a collaborative school environment? What are the pros and cons? Please share your experiences about the teaching profession in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say on the topic.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.