Who We Are and What We Do
We are National Board Certified Teachers who have been collaborative partners for almost a decade at Oceanside High School in New York. Our collaboration works because we’re working together towards a common goal: helping our students reach their fullest potential. We teach two integrated sections of ninth grade Honors English and Social Studies, where our students move as a cohort between our classes, giving them an experience that illustrates how English and Social Studies are related by providing them with the opportunity to read text deeply, and link themes occurring across both classrooms. In addition, we team teach a Conference class where students delve deeper into the humanities, exploring concepts that link us all in the human experience.
Every year we have the opportunity to teach grades other than the ninth grade integrated program, and we choose to stay together. We love working together to mold new entrants into high school, teaching them the skills they’ll need for high school, college, and career success, while we encourage each other to be the best teachers we can be.
The following seven tips come from our decade of experience working together as collaborative partners.
“… a critical friend is someone who is encouraging and supportive, but who also provides honest and often candid feedback that may be uncomfortable or difficult to hear. A critical friend is someone who agrees to speak truthfully, but constructively, about weaknesses, problems, and emotionally charged issues.” — The Glossary of Education Reform
Being critical friends means that we can depend on our colleagues to help us reach our potential. We all serve as critical friends (and really, aren’t these two words synonymous?) who push our practice, help one another see bright spots, and offer resources and a clear path for steps to quality teaching and learning. And while critical friends are who we are for each other, it’s also what we do. Critical Friends is one of many protocols we engage in to provide feedback aimed at improving project design, quality of instruction, and deeper learning experiences for our students.
Why we give feedback
A phrase that I often hear in my work supporting schools is “the culture of the students will never exceed the culture of the adults in a building.” Engaging in the Critical Friends protocol requires a professional culture that is grounded in a shared sense of ownership. It requires a staff that deeply respects one another and can uphold professional norms when engaging with one another. What Critical Friends requires, it also generates — a culture of collaboration. Once a staff is able to successfully collaborate, then they are ready to become a learning organization that can grow together in their practice.