New Position & Collaboration Thoughts

To begin, I accepted a new position, at a different school, over the summer. Actually, I accepted the position the same day that my daughter was born. It was an interesting day to say the least. I'm not sure too many people accept a new job just hours after their daughter was born, but I guess I'm in that statistic. I went from teaching 2 sections of reading, 1 language arts, and 2 sections of social studies (my partner taught math and science), to now teaching 5 sections of social studies and 1 current events class. I'm also giving up one day of SS a week to teach a Google Literacy class to all the 6th graders. It's a day a week to get the students accustomed to all of the Google Apps. The 7th and 8th graders in the building are already pretty versed through the work that was done the year before.

I am missing a lot of the companionship and familyness from my old position. I spent three years with mostly the same group of teachers and I consider them all more than just coworkers. We spent a lot of time together, both school related and life related. It was probably one of the hardest decisions that I have had to make in my 30 years (Holy smokes! I turned 30 this summer! I think it's just now hitting me!) of walking this Earth. I miss them dearly.  I will be forever grateful for what they have done for me and my family! I love my new fellow 6th grade teachers as well. It's a different setup for me since it's departmentalized and we each teach our respective subjects individually. I had 4 other people who were teaching the same thing I was, so it was pretty easy to bounce ideas off of each other and improve each lesson to make it better since we had multiple perspectives. Now, I'm the only person teaching 6th grade SS so I kind of feel like I'm on an island.

After a month teaching, I'm finally getting into the swing of things. I really love what I'm teaching. We're going 1:1 with Chromebooks in a little over a month, and I'm super-pumped for the possibilities and creation tools that the students will be able to access all day long.

As I reflect on the first month of school, I can't help but think about my classroom procedures and how in some classes they have figured out how to collaboratively work together in a quiet voice and how I've had to have some classes work by themselves because they can't handle the freedom presented by my teaching style. It's getting frustrating to me. I think I need to be a little more direct with some students. I feel like I need to remove some of them from the ability to work with others so that the classroom functions in a way that is beneficial to all of the students. I've never really been one to not allowing talking and discussing among peers, but I think some of them have taken it a little too far. I need to look at it from the perspective that I am here to educate all the learners and I need to make decisions to make all students successful. When I look back on when I was a student, I was typically a rule-follower and quite quiet in the classroom. I got upset internally when others were being disruptive just to be disruptive. I need to open my eyes a little to those quiet learners and see from their perspectives.

I asked on twitter for some blog topics and Michelle Stein came to the rescue...
...so I thought I'd share what I believe about a collaborative classroom. I will say that it has been a little harder this year to develop my collaborative classroom environment because I'm used to having my classes, classes as in I'm used to having 2 separate classes that I meet with twice a day. It's a lot easier when you're with them for more time during the day than 45 minutes. (Wait, this sounds I'm making an excuse. I don't let my students make excuses...) I need to do a better job.

When I think of a collaborative classroom -

  • I see 
    • students working together on assignments. Not cheating, but bouncing ideas off of each other. I don't like having students work individually. It is necessary at times, and I typically test individually, but I think one of the most beneficial 21st century skills is the ability to work collaborative with others. The trick is that it is a skill that must be taught. I haven't done a great job of teaching this skill so far this year. One of my classes is basically running itself from a management standpoint. They could probably do the whole class with just a couple of instructions from me. One of the classes is really struggling as a whole with this concept. They are lacking an overall strong work ethic and without that, a lot of the other things don't fall in place. I know, I know, a student shouldn't have to have a strong work ethic because I'm supposed to create irresistible lessons that fully engage students. Yes, I get that, but there is also a personal responsibility for students to try. 
    • I see students asking questions that go beyond the questions asked. I see students take some info and then look up things on their own and then share that with the class. I think Google Classroom is going to help with that once we go 1:1.  I see students who when they are finished, they have something already set up to do. I see students displaying their learning in non-traditional ways. 
  • I hear
    • I hear a buzz in the room. Not an annoying buzz, like the stock market floor, but a healthy little hum. This is usually conversations that students are having about their work. They might stray off to a personal conversation, but they get back on track shortly and press on. I hear students asking for help from other students. I try to be the 3rd person they go to if they have a question. One, so I don't have to answer all the questions, and two, because I imagine that someone near them already has the answer and they don't have to get up and walk all over the room to find me. 
  • I feel 
    • I feel safe and relaxed. My personality is very relaxed. That doesn't mean I'm not driven, I'm just very chill.  I've been in those classrooms where students don't talk. They have this eerie feeling about them. I top down approach. I try to get to the point that just because I'm the teacher doesn't mean I'm higher than the students. It might take a while to get that understanding from some students because they are used to that model, but I want students to know that I probably learn more during a day, then they do. 
  • The setup
    • I think this year is where I dropped the ball in some of the setup. I don't think I modeled what was expected enough and long enough. Where I really struggle is that 2 months ago, my classes were doing it perfectly. Then, I get a whole new class, and start the process over. My brain tells me that they can handle the collaboration, but what my eyes see is different. They have to be taught through talking and modeling. Anything worthwhile building, takes a lot while. I tend to forget that. I need to backtrack and talk about expectations and then hold them accountable. I struggle with this as well. 
  • The long haul
    • It takes a while to build the classroom that you want, but the benefits are tremendous. Collaborating is worthwhile. It must be taught. 

What are some things that you do to build a collaborative classroom?
How do you set your room up to build collaborative spaces?
What are your benefits to collaboration?
What do you do about the students who like working alone?
Where do you go to help foster relationships that lead to collaboration?

2 comments:

  1. I have enjoyed reading your post, feeling as if I were a fly on the wall in your classroom where you will soon gel with your students the way you hope. I appreciate your honesty, as it causes me to reflect on my own strengths and weaknesses, hopefully leading to improvement as an educator. Enjoy your baby girl. Mine are both of voting age, and I tell you that it really does go by in the blink of an eye. Treasure every moment.

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  2. Thanks so much for taking the time to place a comment! We attended a wedding yesterday and I received the advice of, "Don't take too many naps, they grow up way too fast." Have a great day!

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