Collaboration is one of the core values at Eastgate Academy. One of the ways that it is evident in the life of the school is the way that teachers collaborate with each other to support students students’ social, emotional and intellectual growth.
You may think that teachers’ work is largely independent and that most of their interactions are with students. While teachers do spend most of their time with students, collaboration between teachers is an essential part of the job. Engaging teachers in on-going collaboration with each other has several benefits:
- Consistency: when teachers work together they can create a more consistent experience for students. Having some shared routines, strategies and approaches helps to build a unified school culture in which students know what to expect and what is expected of them. Students are better able to focus on the learning when they don’t have to spend time and energy adjusting to different routines.
- Coherence: having teachers develop the curriculum in collaboration with each other contributes to a coherent curriculum. Learning can be designed so that what happens in one subject complements what happens in other subjects, and the knowledge and skills developed one year form the foundation for what students will learn in subsequent years.
- Effective pastoral care: the social-emotional development of students is a goal of our programs and students’ emotional well-being is an important foundation for their learning. When teachers have time to discuss how students are doing and how best to meet their needs, students get more effective support.
Teacher collaboration consists of a few different types of activities. Teachers track students’ progress – academic and social – by analyzing data and observations from assessment tasks and classroom activities, as well as noting any shifts or issues arising in social dynamics in class and at recess. Teachers also work together to design and refine the curriculum, ensuring that there is coherence within and between grade levels. For example, the French, art and PE teachers work with the homeroom teachers to identify points of connection between the units in each subject. Likewise, teachers at each grade level work with the teachers in the grade above and the grade below to create a logical progression of the knowledge and skills developed at each level. Tracking students’ progress and designing the curriculum go hand-in-hand. When teachers have an evidence-based understanding of students’ strengths and needs, they are better able to design curriculum that plays to those strengths and addresses the needs.
At Eastgate Academy, we use a few strategies to ensure that teacher collaboration is embedded in the routines of our school. One strategy is to use a shared format for documenting units and collecting those units in a central location that is accessible to all teachers. This makes it easier to track how specific learning objectives are developed across our curriculum. Another important strategy is to provide regular time for teachers to work together. Starting in 2022-2023, we will be embedding a weekly teacher collaboration meeting into our schedule. Having all teachers present is essential to the process, so we are introducing a late-start for students on Wednesdays. Before-school care will be available so students can still arrive at the usual time, but classes will begin an hour later than usual, allowing teachers a regular time each week to collaborate with each other.
The investment of time for teacher collaboration helps to make instructional time more effective and improve the student experience. Moreover, it reflects one of the core values of our school community.