Sunday, May 19, 2013

Teaching Challenge: Professional Collaboration and Coordination

Note that this post was updated on 5/13/2015

Coordinating teaching efforts with the many specialists is an important and sometimes challenging part of the teaching/learning job.

In schools today, not only the classroom teacher educates children, but multiple specialists do the job as well.

The classroom teacher is responsible for the overall coordination of the schedule and efforts, and specialist teachers, coaches, and interventionists are responsible for specific targets. The goal is to work together well in an effort to craft an engaging, responsive program for each child.

As I analyze the challenge, I want to start with time. The chart on the left demonstrates typical time-on-task efforts, planning/prep, professional learning and lunch. Essentially a classroom teacher has about a 1:6 ratio of planning time to time-on-task with multiple children. If you add lunch periods, the teacher has about 1/5 time to meet (including lunch), prep, and plan, and about 4/5 time on task.  That ratio leaves little time for planning each lesson, personalizing curriculum for each child, and meeting to coordinate efforts with multiple specialists.  Yet, simply knowing the specifics about the time available can help one to plan for the best possible collaboration and coordination.  

Also, time up front to determine schedules, targets, goals, meetings, and communication protocols will help to focus efforts in optimal ways. Ideally that time would happen at the very start of the school year before students start their year. That's one way to start the year with strength.  Using a chart like the one on the right would aid that effort. Also the following questions can serve to ignite the initial conversation:
  • What are your overall goals this year with regard to student learning?
  • What students or skills are you targeting, and what are the specific targets?
  • How can we work well together to meet our collective goals and teach children well?
  • What communication protocols will lead our collaboration? How do you prefer to communicate?  When is after hours communication welcomed, and when is it not welcome?
  • How often will we meet, and what will the focus of our meetings include?
The more the yearly schedule can take on a responsive pattern, the better we are able to target our time for optimal effect. Also it's essential to build time into an educator's schedule for adequate planning, collaboration, and communication. 

After-school time needs to be considered carefully. Some teachers are able and willing to devote countless after school hours of time to plan, prep, and coordinate classroom efforts while others are unwilling or unable to devote those hours. After school hours/weekend efforts and communication can be face-to-face for some or digital for others.  It's essential to determine up front what a teacher's availability and interest is with regard to after hours work and effort as that can be a challenging point for teacher coordination and collaboration. 

Optimal coordination depends on communication and shared goals.  Analyzing the time available, then creating focused protocols and shared goals can lead one in a positive direction in this regard. Year after year I notice that schedules and plans made prior to the school year result in good work while plans/schedules created long after the first days of school never really seem to root with good effect.