In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve looks at how collegiality can be built by creating a three year commitment to students.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:14 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning, and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening in.
Steve: 00:41 Building collegiality with a three year commitment to students. The relationships among teachers, the ways they work with each other, impact what students are experiencing in instruction and impacts student learning. Teacher leaders need to recognize that their efforts to build or improve those relationships is part of a leader’s commitment to increasing student success. Too often leaders complain about teachers’ resistance to teaming or the lack of vulnerability they’re willing to take on with each other or teacher unwillingness to invest time in collaboration. Yet those leaders aren’t developing conscious plans to implement in order to build these critical teacher relationships.
Steve: 01:45 I often introduce an exploration of teacher relationships with an article written by Roland Barth. It’s titled “Improving Relationships Within The Schoolhouse” and it was published by ASCD in 2006. And I’ve put a link to the article in the lead-in to this blog. Barth describes four types of teacher relationships. Parallel play, which is described as teachers working near each other, not with each other. Adversarial – this appears when a sense of competition is present. Teachers are concerned that building up the success of a colleague decreases my status or standing within the school. Congenial – teachers are friendly and their personal in their relationships with each other, but often congenial relationships don’t make a connection to teaching and learning conversations. Collegial – in this case, teacher relationships strongly influence the decisions that teachers make.
Steve: 03:14 Here’s a quote from Barth: “Of the four categories of relationships, collegiality is the hardest to establish. Famous baseball manager, Casey Stangle once muttered, getting good players as easy, getting them to play together as the hard part. Schools are full of good players. Collegiality is about getting them to play together about growing a professional learning community. When I visit a school and look for evidence of collegiality among teachers and administrators, signs that educators are playing together, the indicators I seek are: educators talking with one another about practice, educators sharing their craft knowledge, educators observing one another while they’re engaged in practice, educators rooting for one another’s success.” I’d suggest that a starting point for encouraging teachers to build this sense of collegiality is to look at creating a three year commitment to students. What I mean by that is spending time in the classrooms and in conversations with teachers who have students the year before a teacher’s going to be having those students. It’s spending time and having conversations with teachers who are working with students at the same time that you are. And it means going into the classrooms and having conversations with teachers who have students the year after the students have been in your classroom.
Steve: 05:09 So in an elementary school, this might mean that as a third grade teacher I’m spending time and having conversations with second grade teachers. Two critical elements are happening here. One, as a third grade teacher, I can assist that second grade teacher and having a clear understanding of what is necessary for students to be prepared and be successful as they enter into the next grade. I’m also gaining insights about the students and about their experiences prior to working with them the following year. This third grade teacher is then spending time in the classroom and having conversations with teachers who are also teaching third grade as well as art, music, physical education teachers – folks in guidance or learning support staff, a speech pathologist, that whole group that is focused on that common group of students in the third grade teacher’s classroom. In addition, that third grade teacher is then spending time in the classroom and having conversations with fourth grade.
Steve: 06:29 Here, the teacher is one gathering insights about what is necessary for her students to be successful that following year in fourth grade. In many cases that gives the teacher the opportunity to see her students from the previous year engaged in that next grade level learning. It also provides the fourth grade teacher with the insights that the third grade teacher may have from having spent a year working with students in the previous year. Now, if I move this concept of a three year commitment to a high school, it would mean that as a high school science teacher, I’m spending time in the classrooms of all the teachers in the science department getting that clear understanding of working with students in a course that they’ve taken prior to mine and in courses that they’ll be taking following my class. It also means that as a teacher of a 10th grade science program, I’m spending time in the history and social studies and math classes of 10th grade students getting an understanding of how the students are best learning in other teacher’s classrooms and encouraging whatever knowledge that teacher might establish to be helpful back in my own classroom.
Steve: 08:06 I recently facilitated a collegial process with a team of middle school teachers working with grade five elementary teachers and grade nine high school teachers. Our focus was on creating a transition process to guarantee the greatest supports for student success. We began pairing grade five and six teachers and grade eight and nine teachers. In those pairs, they discussed the seven learning principles from the center for educational research. I’ve included a link in the lead-in to this podcast. They charted the similarities and differences in their classrooms as they discussed each of the seven principles. And the seven principles are, one, learners are at the center. Two, the social nature of learning. Three, emotions being integral to learning. Four, recognizing individual differences. Five, stretching all students. Six, assessment for learning. And seven, building horizontal connections.
Steve: 09:44 At the end of the pairs having the conversations and creating their similarities and differences chart, we went into a whole group conversation where we created questions and shared discoveries and insights about how the environmental and organizational structures between the schools differed. We looked at addressing social and emotional components in each of the different levels and identifying what the academic learning behaviors were that were needed at each of the three levels. With this information at hand, the teachers then interviewed a group of grade six students and separately, a group of grade nine students, seeking from the students any insights that they had and feelings that they had about the recent transitions that they had completed into this new school year.
Steve: 11:08 With this information at hand, we ended the session by generating possible strategies and programs that the lower grade classrooms could implement to prepare students for the new increasing expectation of the next school level. We also identified strategies that the upper level teachers could use to create scaffolding for students as they made the change in their learning experiences from the earlier grade to the later grades. As I observe teachers throughout this process, both working in pairs and as multi grade teams, I saw all of the indicators that Barth had suggested being present. Educators were talking with one another about practice. Educators were sharing their craft knowledge. Educators observed one another while they were engaged in practice. During the previous two days leading up to this discussion, we visited classrooms in all three school levels, identifying student production behaviors. And lastly, teachers were rooting for one another’s success and most importantly for their shared students’ success. Thanks for listening in.
Steve [Outro]: 12:55 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley ponders out loud on iTunes and Podbean, and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.