Teachers need each other. When we come together, we find essential solutions to our everyday hurdles, and those more complex obstacles, as they arise. We connect socially, build community, and set an example for our children about working together with others.
Does it ever feel like we are wearing all the hats? We are educators, inventors, psychologists, nurses, deputies, and even stand-in parents. At our most overwhelmed, it can feel like we are spinning plates in the air while simultaneously juggling rings of fire and doing backflips. Exhausting!
Collaboration is a great way to work smarter, not harder. When we can bring together different strengths, it’s like we instantly multiply the expertise in the room and simplify the complex duties expected of us every day. Collaboration has countless benefits. It’s essential if you’re a teacher looking for support, new ideas, a different perspective, or a boost in job satisfaction. Let’s go a little deeper into why it works and how to adapt it to work for you.
When we work together, we maximize learning for students.
Collaboration grows the power and effectiveness of your instruction. It can feel like there are never enough hours in a day to get everything in. But through collaboration, we can do so much more on our own.
- When we share our new ideas and individual areas of expertise, we learn how to link ideas across the curriculum for students. And we can rely on the strengths of others to help our students connect the dots. We can borrow and integrate solutions and perspectives that change the game for students and ourselves (which would have taken much more time and effort on our own).
- Coming together is a great way to keep our teaching fires lit and burning strong. We can infuse new energy into time-tested lessons that may have gotten stale. Collaboration can also help us when it feels like we are building an airplane in the sky as it’s flying. Borrowing from the strengths of our colleagues helps us feel more prepared for issues that may arise and enables us to adapt to them more easily and confidently.
- Working well with others is a skill that takes practice for our young students. We do a great job of modeling that when we collaborate. Little ones are observant, and when we share lessons, work together to build a unit, or come together for an activity, students see us working together on a common goal.
- To build on the last point, when we work on the same lesson, project, unit, or learning goal and add our own touch, we are modeling that we can find the same solution in different ways and that there are many ways to be successful, even though they might look slightly different.
Collaboration fosters a positive learning environment, and that equates to higher achievement and better overall outcomes for both students and teachers.
Examples of collaborative teaching
There are countless ways to come together with your colleagues. Let’s highlight some more common examples of what that might look like so you can adapt or improve upon these ideas at your school.
Sharing the workload helps open up time, energy, and brain space so we can be more effective across all areas of our profession. That could look like dividing up the responsibilities of a task, or across a large project into more manageable parts, or delegating responsibilities based on areas of passion or expertise.
We don’t just have to collaborate when it comes to instruction. We can come together before and after lessons to set goals and desired outcomes, and help ourselves focus on these targets while we’re instructing. We can collect data about our students and share it with our grade-level teams. We can use this data to problem-solve and build achievement by brainstorming solutions together. And my favorite part, we can celebrate all of our achievements together! When one of us wins, we all win because we all work together to find solutions. We take what we all learn and continue to build and foster success with our students more efficiently and with fewer roadblocks.
How to integrate collaboration at your school and classroom culture
Are you looking for fresh ideas to help foster collaboration at your school? Here are a handful of ideas that you can start with.
Integrating ideas across the curriculum or incorporating buddy learning with other classes in your lessons are fun ways to work together and get results.
Studies show that project-based learning is highly engaging. But it can also be very complex and time-consuming. When you work collaboratively with other teachers, you can let your expertise shine and borrow time-tested ideas from your colleagues to save energy, build engagement, and promote student success.
Buddy learning with projects can be adapted to suit your individual circumstances. You can learn more about the social-emotional benefits of buddying up with another classroom here.
Plan units and share resources together
Why work alone to reinvent the wheel when, together, teachers have the shared knowledge and resources to support student achievement? Sometimes we are 80% there and just need that little boost. Other times, we have everything we need, but our lessons feel old and tired after repeated use. Infusing new energy into what’s already working can work wonders for our lessons, and we can gain a little perspective and even learn something new ourselves. Collaborative teaching is a great way to light the spark we need.
Integrate community-building activities
When teachers work well together, it encourages students to follow their lead. Once you’ve practiced, use what you have learned about collaboration and show students how to do it too! Whether you’re bringing students together from different classes to share ideas, show what they know, or practice working together, there are lots of ways to build a sense of community among the whole group. I think non-fiction units and readers are a great jumping-off point because they are a great opportunity for students to interact and learn together.
Whatever activities you integrate, consider rotating through classrooms, buddying up, or taking it all outside. You’ll be thrilled to see the benefits of building a community that works together.
There are so many ways to come together and collaborate with other teachers at your school. I hope this has fueled some ideas to build community and foster success for everybody! Stay tuned to the blog for more resources and support to ensure All Students Can Shine! And join our Facebook Community and collaborate with us there!