Last night I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of future school principals on the topic of beginning teacher support. Not suprisingly, the subject of this year's survey was at the top of my list of how to support beginning teachers: foster an atmosphere of collaboration. The first part of the Collaboration for Student Success survey is entitled "Effective Teaching and Leadership," and one point we discussed as a group last night comes up again: "While we are meeting with other teachers, we aren't observing other teachers." Less than 1/3 of the teachers who responded to the survey indicated that the practice of observing other teachers occurs at their schools.
As the years went by, those doors opened a little, but for the majority of my career there was still a mentality in the hallways and common areas of "I'm only going to address my own students, the ones I know, and leave the others to the teachers who teach them."
But now, according to the Survey of the American Teacher, 67% of the educators who completed the survey believe that increased collaboration has a direct effect on student success. And 80% strongly agree that teachers share responsibility for achievement of all students. We're in this together, folks, and I'm delighted to see that a majority of those questioned agree.
And although in many schools, there's still some "door closing" and collaborative planning is not a seamless part of the day, we have come so far in our understanding of purposeful instruction. My school has 1 1/2 hours of common grade-level planning daily and fully equipped team rooms for meetings (fully equipped = tables, chairs, and internet access...there are also bathrooms and a functional stove, but we don't seem to fit "cooking" in to the planning meetings).
At my school, collaboration is such a part of the culture that I see discussions about instruction everywhere - the halls, the cafeteria, the car rider line - and just last summer, while my entire faculty attended a graveside funeral, the math teacher I was talking to after the service excused herself on the lawn of the cemetery: "I have to plan a math lesson," she said as she walked across the grass to meet with her grade-level teaching partner.
I looked at my principal and said, "We're having PLC meetings in a cemetery...in the summer...when school's out."
I know this type of collaboration is the exception and not the rule, but I can tell you that it works, it's the best for students, and it fosters an atmosphere of family in a school.
The Metlife Survey of the American Teacher can tell you that, too.