Today I made time to sit in on the professional planning and collaboration that took place as Greystone’s five grade five teachers met together during their “Team Time”. Team Time is the chunk of time that has been built into our teachers’ schedules – allowing them the opportunity to come together to move student learning forward at Greystone.
During my time as a classroom teacher working on a highly collaborative teaching team and in my experience as an administrator in a K-9 school and a 5-9 middle school, I have learned much about Professional Learning Communities and what works and what doesn’t work when the expectation for “teamwork” is part of the school culture. The bottom line for me is that the struggles that are often experienced in the team process are far outweighed by the benefits of improved student learning when a dedicated group of professionals comes together to bring their insights, experiences and ideas to the table and are open to learning from and with each other in order to improve their teaching practice.
I saw evidence of this today as I observed the “Team Time” in Learning Community 5. This talented group of teachers includes individuals who have worked on a team together before this year and a new teacher to our school. The way their meeting rolled out today demonstrated a high level of trust and excellent focus. The meeting included key pieces that should be a part of the collaborative process – discussion about student achievement related to a concept they were exploring in math and suggestions from team members about how learning could be improved and what assessments they could use, discussion about the critical outcomes/essential learning they were after as a result of a Science investigation, the sharing of resources/ideas, the re-organization of students to provide all learners with direct instruction at the appropriate reading level and additional arrangements were made for when pairs of teachers could get together to further develop plans and assessments for specific tasks.
Was it easy to arrange our school schedule so that our teachers would be given time during the day to come together as a team? Absolutely not! Was this something that we could easily afford to do on a very tight budget? Absolutely not! Do we believe that student learning will improve as a result of this investment of time and money? Absolutely!
The only thing missing? More time for the reflection and dialogue that is needed to hash out ideas without feeling the pressure of a time crunch; however, given the limited amount of time we are able to carve out of the school day for these teachers to meet, they did an incredible job of making the most of every minute they had together. Team Time in Learning Community 5 today was definitely time well spent!
~ Carolyn Cameron