Getting Better Together: Collaborating Around Instructional Priorities

Getting Better Together

It’s nearly impossible to put into words what educators feel when the bell rings on the final day of school. The sheer joy of entering into weeks of bell-free, kid-free, and paper-free days alone is almost worth entering into the profession. In June, the new school year seems so far away. But, August does come. And we find ourselves at the beginning of the cycle all over again. Even more, we find ourselves hitting pause each January to reflect and adjust our course.

The school year begins to come into perspective for me after the baseball all-star game and before the start of NFL training camps (can you tell that I’m a sports fan?). After July 15th, August comes into sharp focus for educators across the country. However, if you waited until July to actually begin preparations for the new year, you might’ve been feeling a little pressure.

And now in January, it might feel like you’re starting all over again, as you revisit and reflect on the progress you’ve made so far and forge onward with your new and improved plans for the second half of the year. But no matter where you are in your planning and preparation, collaboration is a very important part of starting — and finishing — strong.

  • Get with the members of your team (grade level or otherwise) and do a review of last year or last semester. What worked and what didn’t? Where can you grow and what do you need to keep doing?
  • Begin planning your unit outlines and lesson plans as early as possible. Become an expert in the content that you’re planning to teach before teaching it, and then craft an engaging and challenging set of lessons to launch the unit. Remember, what happens in May is a reflection of your start in September and your reflection and reboot in January.
  • Establish BHAGs as a group for the year or semester. Best-selling author Jim Collins coined the acronym BHAGs, which stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Essentially, ask yourselves what are the top three goals that will have a positive impact on all students that you and your team are committed to? Create these goals with your team, outline the metrics you’ll monitor as you progress towards your goals, and identify the necessary training that will support your efforts.

Teaching is filled with many verbs: educate, inspire, love, and so much more. But teaching becomes a transformative act in the prepositions: talking to a student after class; sitting on the same bleachers as a child’s parents; planning with a group of colleagues past midnight for a meeting the next morning. The best moments in my teaching career have come with colleagues. It stands to reason, then, that some of the best learning experiences may only be accomplished in collaboration with others as well.

Josh Parker is a 2013 NEA Global Fellow and the 2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year. He serves the students and staff of Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School in Washington, D.C. as an instructional coach. He is a proud board member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year and is a Teaching Channel Laureate. Connect with Josh on Twitter: @MDTOY2012.

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