I am starting the second semester of my first year at a new school district, and I am wondering how the level of collaboration among teachers in others schools compares to my school. I teach with three other English teachers of the same grade level, and we have common calendars, common assessments (formative and summative) and common homework assignments with very little wiggle room (everything in our gradebook is expected to be the same). The school where taught last year was not as focused on collaboration, so I'm wondering what others are doing.
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I think with the new Common Core, collaboration is needed more than in the past. teachers expect that students have the knowledge which is expected and outlined when they come into the new year (school year). Without this collaboration, students will fall behind and teachers will not know where they need to focus.
Many schools in my area are demanding more uniform instruction as the pressure to meet state-mandated standards increases. It's just easier for administrators that way, and let's face it, the tail often wags the dog when it comes to curriculum and instruction. Fortunately, I've always taught at small schools, including a charter school, and often was the only teacher who taught my courses. So it never really affected me, though I know many others who frankly are having their wings clipped by an emphasis on standardization. I will say that collaboration, which is a different kettle of fish altogether, is not only wonderful, but essential to good teaching. And I understand the need to standardize content, even if I don't agree with it. But there has to be room for teachers to bring their own expertise and experience into the classroom, and many lessons and teaching styles just don't work well with some personalities.
I'd say that's really a school to school thing. The first school I taught at was similar to your situation. They were extremely strict on collaborative planning. We were expected to be teaching the same thing at the same time, even down to the page of the novels we read. The administrators wanted to be able to move from one class to another and see the exact same thing. As this didn't suit my teaching style well, I switched schools. The second school was much more relaxed. We were supposed to collaborate, but there was very little time for it. Usually, we made sure we were assessing the same points but not necessarily at the same time. We did have a few common assessments, and we did collaborate on projects. We usually traded off with novels due to supplies so it was impossible to teach the same thing at the same time. It really depends on the school and their philosophy of teaching.
In my experience, it depends a lot on the other teachers that you work with. I have worked with some who have never shared anything, as they believe that they have worked so hard that they are not willing to share their hard work. Others, however, have been incredibly generous with their time and resources, which was of particular benefit to me when I started teaching.
I also suspect that there will be more and more emphasis on standardization, which is very sad. Part of the reason many of us went into teaching is because we were inspired by some unusual and gifted teachers who did things their own ways, not in accordance with some inflexible mandate. Fortunately, I am at a school in which I still have a good deal of autonomy, although I suspect that this will be less and less the case in many schools.
I've never taught anywhere with anywhere near the amount of mandatory coordination that you (or Bullgator in Post 2) are experiencing. However, I do agree with Post #5 here that I think that this will become more common as schools try to have more control over exactly what is being taught so that they can try to prove that they're doing everything they can to get students to pass the high-stakes tests.
As the Common Core becomes a more widely "accepted" expectation, as nation-wide expectations for curriculum become more deeply engrained, and as hihg-stakes tests to evaluate the learning of students become an even larger part of the educational landscape, the amount of personalized imagination and creativity that teachers are going to be able to bring to their classrooms is going to continue to shrink proportionately (I very much fear).
Professional teaming is a growing trend in education and it would seem that you are working in the extreme environment of it, but I think this is where a lot of schools are going because it provides stronger data in regards to student achievement and standards for grading. Hopefully the three of you can work in collaboration, but just forced to follow one leader.
I taught at three different schools during most of my career: Two of the principals allowed their teachers free rein concerning subject matter and lesson plans. The other principal, for at least a few years of my tenure, decided that all teachers in each grade must have identical lesson plans. Sadly, she allowed the team leader to create the curriculum, and (out of laziness and hard-headedness) she chose to keep the lessons she had taught the year before--allowing no input from the other teachers. Therefore, the other teachers had to follow her lesson plans and create all new plans of our own. This came about because some parents were complaining that their children had too much homework from some of the the teachers (not the team leader, naturally). I still shake my head over this crazed display of educational decision-making. Good luck and hang in there--things may change next year.
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