How Collaboration Builds Capacity
By Nicole Beatson
When someone asks me why I became a teacher, I always dive into the fact that teaching is both an art and a science. Science is fact. Science is definite. Science is black and white. The “scientific” definition of teaching is that educators engage with learners to enable them to understand the given concepts and processes. This is what all teachers in every field aim to accomplish, but how we choose to accomplish this is art.
Being a first year teacher, I often feel like I am traveling in a maze not knowing which direction to turn. The amount of teaching styles, curriculum resources, and instructional strategies can be a bit overwhelming. This is the time for me to figure out who I am as a teacher, and facilitate the best practices for overall student success. A big component of strengthening my practices has been collaboration.
From my (short) experience, I have found that the most effective teachers are always looking for new ideas to include in their curriculum regimen through constructive collaboration. At its core, collaboration is completely relational. Creating positive relationships with colleagues, understanding their philosophies, and being able to look past professional differences is essential for effective collaboration to take place. Here are some of the strategies that I have found to be the most helpful.
Collaborate with others who share the same vision or end goal
Trust and respect all opinions regarding the matter at hand
Address common issues/possible solutions
Benefits of constructive collaboration:
Happier teachers- Teamwork keeps us engaged and motivated
Expanded knowledge- Learn from one another and discover own strengths and weaknesses
Wellness- It is proven that employees work to their top potential when they feel their contributions are valued and appreciated
Positive workplace atmosphere- Building strong social relationships is a result of working together collaboratively
Working as a physical education teacher at two buildings in the district gives me a big advantage when it comes to collaborative opportunities. I work with four highly experienced physical educators who have been so generous when it comes to sharing their ideas, curriculum, philosophies, and resources. Working collaboratively in physical education is often critical, as most teachers act as co-teachers in the gym. I have built strong relationships with my colleagues which has enabled my confidence to run to them with any question, idea, or problem that I may have. Examples of what my experience collaborating has given me:
In my teacher preparation program, we were taught not to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to curriculum. There are so many resources proven to be effective found online, in books, or through other teachers. All of the seasoned teachers I work with have provided me with lesson plans, curriculum books, equipment, and implementation expertise. If I ever have an idea to do a certain activity or unit, they provide me with a stack of lessons/games without hesitation.
Being new, I bring a lot to the table as well when it comes to sharing different resources. I am still taking graduate classes, and I always try to share newer topics and ideas. For example, I am currently taking an assessment in PE class. We are learning new ways to assess cognitive knowledge within our students in all grades. This is something I hope we can start implementing together as a team.
Instead of feeling timid and unstable like I thought I would feel being a brand new teacher, I felt confident and prepared right off the bat. Working with a team that is supportive and welcoming instilled a level of confidence that made me sure that I was able to do this, and do it well.
Different Teaching Strategies
Each of the four educators I work with each have a unique teaching style. They each use their own kinds of language, cues, instructional structure, and behavior management strategies. As a new teacher, it is nice to have the opportunity to not only collaborate with my colleagues about these topics, but to observe and compare them. This has given me the opportunity to see what works for me as an individual teacher, and how I need to adapt depending on how the students respond.
As you can see, collaboration is my main go-to when it comes to strengthening my overall teaching effectiveness. You cannot be afraid to ask questions, connect with colleagues, and advocate for your professional growth. This makes me wonder...what can we accomplish if we model these strategies for our students to use as well?