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Friday, December 04, 2015

School Restructure: Math/Science Teams and Language Arts/Social Studies Teams

A couple of years ago I was dismayed. I simply had too much curriculum to stay on top of and teach. I was working around the clock and very frustrated that I couldn't do it all. Then my job was shifted to a shared teaching model and this year that shared teaching model took on even more delineation and focus. That has made all the difference. Simply stated, the shared teaching model means greater collegial collaboration, more time to dig in and teach deeply, and greater streamlining of leadership and expectations.

How can schools move in this direction so that teachers have more time to dig in and teach well at all levels?

I think one idea may be to create cross-grade teams of math/science and ELA/social studies teachers. These teachers would meet regularly to look at how they could boost learning and teaching in those areas utilizing lots of interdisciplinary work. Then those teams would work at grade level with each other to impact teaching and learning for all students at the grade level in ways that matter.

For example if you employed this model at third grade, students would engage in math/science learning experiences with some teachers and ELA/social studies learning experiences with other teachers. The grade level teachers would also work together to support each others' goals with RTI (Response to Intervention) time, interdisciplinary grade-level projects, and other shared teaching/learning times.

A model like this would help teachers to work with the learning progressions that exist in the content areas as they work to teach children well. This model will also help all of us to learn more and keep up to date in specific discipline areas. With regard to curriculum leadership, coaching, specialists, and special education, those areas would be streamlined too and matched with a specific learning/teaching team which also creates greater targeted teaching and work. For example, Art could be matched with science and math as part of STEAM and library could be matched more with the ELA/Social Studies. Of course there would be overlap, but this kind of matching would represent initial focus and team. Further, students' classrooms could be more specifically tailored to the kinds of learning that happens there. For example this year since I'm mainly teaching STEAM and math, I have much more room for STEAM and math materials, posters, and learning stations. This helps me to teach those subjects well whereas in the past I had to host all the Language Arts materials too so there just wasn't room for that kind of delineation.  One more advantage of this kind of model is that there's less comparison between classrooms and greater collaboration amongst classrooms with regard to students, educators, and families.

What do you think of this model with regard to teaching elementary school children well? What are the drawbacks and what are the positives? Why would we move in this direction?