New Teachers Learn about
Teaching Through Collaboration Judi Fenton
Fifth grade teacher Ann Nichols confides that it’s
hard to know what grade level work should look like when you’re
a new teacher. Liza Rancap agrees, “As a new teacher you
are given materials and books and you’re not quite sure
what to do with them.”
At P.S. 72 this is less of a problem than at many city schools.
Teachers have been working collaboratively, examining the assignments
they give and the resulting student work across their grade. The
goal is for teachers to work together in order to create thoughtful,
rigorous, standards-based assignments which accurately reflect
the teaching and learning unfolding in their classrooms.
The teachers have formed critical friends groups, with the fifth
grade teachers at the forefront, collaborating on their common
preps and during extended day professional development time.
Among the fifth grade group are two new teachers, Ann and Liza,
who are grappling with fitting in the demanding curricular mandates
while, at the same time, figuring out what being a teacher means.
They both agree that publicly presenting assignments to their
colleagues and receiving feedback makes them more accountable
for the work they give their students and helps them to formulate
better lessons. Ann shares, “It’s easy to plan alone
and work in our isolated classrooms, but getting more minds in
one room helps me to clearly define the task I am asking my kids
to do. It makes me accountable for the work I give my kids.”
The meetings not only help teachers to be more effective in the
classroom, but they also create a constructive structure for teachers
to interact, with the student work as the primary focus. New and
experienced teachers interact on equal footing—and all learn
extensively about their practice.
Liza relates, “Now I get direction from talking with other
teachers. With their help I can put it all together to make it
work.” Anne adds, “I’ve realized that teaching
is very creative; planning with someone else makes it so much
more effective.” Many teachers through their careers never
have the opportunity to realize this. Ann and Liza are fortunate
to be spending their first years in a school where teacher collaboration
and learning are encouraged and valued.
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