Collaboration is very different than collegiality. Do know the difference? We are really good at being collegial. We are respectful and careful with each others’ feelings. We share. However, this is very different than the messy and complicated work of collaboration.
What does collaboration look like in your school or your office? We launched our school year talking about this as a staff. Our teachers have been working hard on the implementation of new protocols and collaborative planning practices. Our work is directed by Board Goal #1: Increase District 30’s capacity to systemically collaborate within grade-level teams to execute the cycle of continuous instructional improvement. There is an update to the Board of Education scheduled for January 9.
District 30 has a vision of cohesive instruction. We want to get better at using formative assessment data to drive our instructional planning. However, we also recognize the importance of valuing teacher autonomy, and individual personality or passion. Drawing upon the seminal work of Richard DuFour, our teachers are asking the 4 big questions:
- What do we expect our students to learn?
- How will we know they are learning?
- How will we respond when they don’t learn?
- How will we respond if they already know it?
What does professional collaboration look like at Willowbrook and Wescott? Well, a team of teacher leaders completely reimagined our master schedules. As a result, each grade level now has an hour of common plan time every single day! Our district math coaches have been leading Professional Learning Team (PLT) meetings every Tuesday. English Language Arts meetings were added to Thursdays just this week.
Most of our PLT meetings begin with looking at a common data point (a.k.a., fresh data) – What are the common patterns or data trends that we see in our students? Can we sort our students into beginning, approaching, meeting, and exceeding standards? Next, our teachers discuss what guided instruction will look like for the coming week. What will the students be doing? What will the teachers be doing?
The results of these collaborative planning efforts have already borne fruit. Our grade-level teams are diving into the curriculum maps to add assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (and our draft report cards). Some grade-levels are working on inter-rater reliability or how they judge student work samples. Some teams have made changes to the pacing or sequence of instructional topics in response to trends found within the standardized assessment data (i.e., Illinois Assessment of Readiness, Measures of Academic Progress).
Teaching has become an increasingly complicated profession. Teachers require the support of teams. However, this professional collaboration requires our teacher teams to demonstrate a high level of vulnerability. It requires setting meeting norms. How will we handle conflict or differences of opinion? How will we come to a consensus? How will we keep the commitments we have made to each other? Our staff are doing an incredible job. They have met these expectations. The result – terrific things are happening for kids, and we are getting better at our craft.