Collaboration in the classroom benefits teachers and students alike. It’s well worth the challenges and resources that it requires. This lesson discusses some of the important benefits of classroom collaboration.
Dana and Gillian are elementary school teachers who have been collaborating in their practice for nearly a decade. Dana is certified in general education and teaches a fourth grade class, while Gillian is certified in special education and works as a resource room teacher. Ever since they got to know each other the two teachers have worked hard to form a productive and dynamic collaborative team.
Dana and Gillian believe that collaboration strengthens their teaching practice, enhances their communication with administrators and families, and helps their students be more productive and engaged learners. In this lesson, we’ll explore some of the ways collaboration benefits everyone in the classroom.
Dana will be the first to tell you that collaboration isn’t easy! There are times when she has a particular way she wants to do things and it can be quite difficult to compromise or see things from another perspective.
However, Dana believes that seeing two teachers collaborate in spite of the challenges is one of the best ways to model cooperation for her students. After all, how can she ask her students to work in partnerships and groups if she can’t negotiate this herself?To model cooperation, Dana and Gillian try to be transparent about their process for collaboration. Their students see the plans they make together and watch them share responsibilities. Their students even see them disagree sometimes and benefit from watching how they work through their conflicts respectfully and carefully. By watching their teachers, Dana and Gillian’s students learn that they can reach out to other people for help in challenging situations, that they can do stronger work as a team than on their own, and that honoring the perspective of another person is one of the most important things a human being can do.
One of Gillian’s favorite aspects of collaborating with Dana and other teachers in their school is the way they can bounce ideas off of each other.
When they have a difficult student, in common they can brainstorm together about how to meet the student’s needs. When they are beginning a new curriculum, they generally have long conversations about how best to communicate the concepts and skills they hope to convey.Before her current position, Gillian taught at a school where teachers tended to work in greater isolation, and she’s seen how much more creative teaching can be when multiple minds come together to tackle the many challenges of the teaching profession.
Complementing Strengths and Struggles
Dana loves teaching fourth grade, but the math curriculum has always been difficult for her.
She’s worked on it with the math coach and gone to many workshops, and she knows her math pedagogy is improving, but she still feels that teaching math just isn’t her strength. Therefore, she asks Gillian to launch each new math unit for her class and be present for important conceptual lessons.Teaching math has always been Gillian’s strong suit, but she sometimes has a lot of trouble with behavior management. Dana is excellent at this aspect of teaching, so she sometimes works with Gillian in the classroom or visits her small groups to help sort out challenging behavioral issues.In this collaborative process neither teacher is simply copping out of a hard part of their job.
Rather, the two of them are complementing their strengths and struggles where both of their practices benefit as a result. No one person can do it all, and collaboration is a great way to make the most of the human resources at a particular school.
Critical Thinking and New Perspectives
Dana has heard a lot of talk about teaching critical thinking, which she thinks of as learning to see the world from a number of different perspectives. She and Gillian think that teachers need to be critical thinkers, too. By working hard on their collaborative relationship, Dana and Gillian are strengthening their own critical thinking skills. They’re learning that there can be multiple right approaches to problems and situations. This enables them to see things from the perspectives of students and families more openly as well, and everyone in their community ultimately benefits.
Collaboration in the classroom can certainly be complicated, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor. By collaborating, teachers model cooperative behavior, complement each other’s strengths and struggles, become deeper critical thinkers, and get new creative ideas.