Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Teaching Tips - Team Up

You know those sayings, "Work smarter, not harder." and "Divide and Conquer"?

They're worth a shot.  Really!  

Unless you're one of those really tiny schools, you probably have at least 1 or 2 other teachers on your grade level team.  During my 1st year of teaching we had 10 1st grade teachers on our team.  The smallest my team ever got was 5 teachers.  Regardless of size you can make your teaching life a whole lot easier by collaborating with your team.

Everyone has their own teaching styles and preferences, but collaborating doesn't necessarily mean giving up your teaching style.

Here's one easy way to help each other out-

Every week our team got together for at least one planing period to go over what we were teaching.  One year we decided to start a folder for each skill we covered.  Every time we met, we collected lesson plans, ideas, activities, and assessments that we either made or found and placed a copy in the folder.  Our grade chair kept the folder in her room in a designated spot.  Whether you were ready to peruse the file now or needed some time to catch up, you always knew where to find the file.  
We had one folder for each subject area.  We even kept the past skill folder in the organizer for a little longer in case someone was behind and needed to catch up.

Obviously the 1st year required the most work since we were starting from scratch.  We actually assigned/volunteered for different subjects to focus on and bring materials to the table for our weekly meeting (but were free to add materials to any of the subject areas at any time).  Each subsequent year we dug the skill file out of the grade level file cabinet, reviewed what we already had, and then added our new materials.  Everyone was free to use what they wanted (or what suited their teaching style) or leave it if it didn't particularly appeal to their teaching goal.  We just built it into our personal lesson plans as we saw fit without any expectation to use any/all available resources.  That's all it was, really . . . a relevant resource we built for ourselves.

It was great to be able to simply go back to the file each year to get a quick starting point for each skill we taught.  It was even better for those new to our grade level because it took some pressure off of them and made teaching a new grade level a little less overwhelming.

A few years ago our school switched over from a shared drive to using OneNote.  Our grade level then started saving files and links that we used for our skills onto OneNote for everyone to access.  It was basically a digital shared version of our grade level hard copy folders, but we continued to use our hard copy folders in conjunction with OneNote as well.

Another perk to these shared folders was that it helped us to build camaraderie.  If you are not fortunate enough to be on a team that enjoys sharing (because I've heard stories of teachers who don't like to share with others), start a grade level folder anyways and host the folders in your room.  Extend the invitation to your teammates to come use the materials if they choose.  Remember we reap what we sow, so even if they are not receptive to your kindness you'll find yourself rewarded in other ways.  Besides you will be using the materials whether or not they do and will likely use them next year too.  And who knows! Next year your team might be more inclined to work together, and they'll be grateful that you already got the ball rolling. 

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