I am always shocked when I hear teachers telling me that they don’t share their work with their peers. I have been very lucky to work within departments where sharing was a habit and in these departments everything ran very smoothly but I have also worked within schools where sharing was not part of the education culture. I totally understand that some teachers consider their resources as something personal. Creating resources is time-consuming and teachers don’t often get rewarded for their creativity which makes them even more reluctant to work collaboratively with their peers. It is therefore quite natural that many of us turn to online resources sharing websites. But giving my opinion about selling or sharing resources for free is not the main point of this article. What I would like to emphasize with you is the importance of sharing within schools.
Collaborative work is not just about sharing resources with your colleagues, even if that’s already a good start. Collaborative work in schools means sharing knowledge, expertise and experience to enhance the quality of teaching. It consists of different aspects. You can work within your team and analyze performance data to develop strategies to help students further. You can also work on improving the curriculum by planning Schemes of Work or Unit plans together. Another interesting part of collaborative work within schools is the mentoring and coaching aspect. Teachers who have gained experience in building projects can be asked to deliver training sessions to their peers and that is also a great benefit of collaboration.
The best schools I have worked with consider sharing resources as a key feature of their strategy to improve the quality of learning-teaching. Teachers who take the time to sit down and share good practice are more likely to stay in the profession than teachers who keep isolated. Schools that foster collaboration through resources fairs, department meetings, and online sharing websites are capable of improving not only the teacher retention but they are also capable of dramatically improving the provision on the long-term. If departments share resources they have at their disposal, less pressure is put on teachers to constantly create brand-new resources and consequently teachers can dedicate more time to teaching.
The collaboration between newbie teachers and experienced ones is often fruitful as the newbies will bring some fresh ideas and technological support while the most experienced will have the expertise and explain what can work and what can’t work with students. Having experienced teachers to be in charge of the induction of new teachers will be a good way to engage them both. While experienced teachers will help new teachers in terms of lesson planning, observations and mentoring, new teachers will help experienced ones with other tasks like incorporating more technology or building a new curriculum. From this collaboration should result a better teaching practice for everyone.
Not only will the teachers benefit from collaborative work but also the students. When you have some students in your class and you are not quite sure what to do to best support them, the best thing to do is to contact your peers. They will help you with the profile of the students and together you can then put some strategies in place to unlock these students’ potential.
Collaborating with one another is not always an easy task but it is really worth the try. I suggest you try different options and find the ones that best suit you. Keep in mind that the first step in collaborative work is often the most difficult one but honestly once you have overcome any doubts you may have, collaboration is one of the greatest tool there is to improve education on the long-run.