Collaboration Review

Today could have been one of those dreaded teaching days – the “curriculum” or “professional development” day. In many districts, this means teachers sit and listen to someone in administration or someone hired by the district to discuss topics often unrelated to or out of date for many teachers. However, thankfully, our district allows us to select our own professional development and provides some real collaboration time for our teams. We are, of course, required to provide evidence of our productivity, but I can honestly say as a department who all sat in the same room, we were productive all day.

I am so thankful for that time and for the opportunity to work with my colleagues. As teachers, it’s easy to become the master of our own domain. It can be a tough dynamic because we spend most of our days being the Supreme Ruler and then infrequently sometimes then sit with other people who are also Supreme Rulers and others who are the “real” Supreme Rulers, and we have to stop being in charge. It can be hard. I’ve seen pride  and ego completely swallow productivity, teachers butting heads because they feel like they know more, are superior, or smarter in some way, and therefore, they feel they cannot possibly have anything more to learn from the others in the room. But I’ve found that most everyone has something to share and a technique about which I can learn. The teacher war stories are inevitable, when teachers get together, but it’s helpful to feel not alone because the same setup that leaves me master of my own domain also leaves me feeling lonely at the top. Hearing from others that I’m not the only one who worries about being good enough or smart enough, who worries about my students being prepared for the next year’s teachers, reminds me how connected we all really are.

Above all though, on days like today, I’m just so proud of the hard work we all do. We spent four hours this morning on preparing summer reading assignments, reviewing pacing guides, discussing novel selections, and another four hours this afternoon preparing assignments and calendars for the end of the year. I always feel better when I’m with other teachers – like I’m the best version of myself as an educator. Every conversation of which I was a part and which I overheard was collegial, purposeful, and above all, productive. We didn’t always agree – we have different philosophies, different focus areas, but every teacher heard the others out, voiced their ideas and concerns, and we just kept coming to compromises that were the best versions of what we discussed. We are better when we’re together. There’s no question in my mind.

I can make individual assignments and plans all day and all night, and I’ll be comfortable and even proud of the work I do. But when I work with others and develop something in collaboration with my colleagues, I feel sure that I’m on the right path. So often, as a teacher, it can be hard to feel supported since so many have opinions about what we do and how we do it, but so often those opinions come from people who aren’t in the classroom or sometimes aren’t even in a school. When we spend days like today together, it’s amazing what we can do when we support each other, challenge each other respectfully, and really push the boundaries of each others’ ideas to come up with the best version of an assignment or unit.

So often, we dread the teacher days of meetings. Even the students sigh in solidarity when they ask what I’m doing while they’re off, at home, and I say that I’m in meetings all day. But once I round out the day, every time, I feel so rejuvenated. Confidence can be hard to come by some days, especially at this point in the year, but I’m thankful for my colleagues who help me feel strong with only eight weeks left in the year! Soldier on, warriors!

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