Practices at Work: Collaborative Teams

Practices at Work: Collaborative Teams

Practices at Work are articles from Fairfax County Public Schools Instructional Service Department. 

Being a Part of a Collaborative Team — Patti Freeman, Franklin Middle School

When I think of teaching in middle school today, I recall what my grandmother often told me: "Many hands make light work." When I started my first teaching job over 30 years ago, I was given the textbook and told, "Good luck, see you in June!", and then they closed the door.

Thankfully, times have changed. We no longer go into our classrooms, isolated, to fend for ourselves. At Franklin Middle School professionals come together to work toward the same goal—doing what’s best for our students. Our Professional Learning Community is organic, growing, and changing as the school’s needs grow and change. Our collaborative teams (CTs) take many forms and it is not uncommon for an individual to be a part of several CTs. A CT can be subject based, team based, special project based, or grade-level based. The content CTs work together to plan instruction, create common assessments, and pool resources. We work through material together to ensure that our instruction, vocabulary, and expectations are consistent. We check in regularly to measure the validity of our plans and make adjustments as necessary. It is not uncommon for a first period teacher to send a quick email or pop in to say, "Heads up, you should try this instead…." Because we share the responsibility of teaching all of the students not just the students on our roster, we combine our collective experiences and knowledge to find a way to reach each child.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing. We had to learn to agree to disagree, to let go of "being right", and to give up the need for absolute control. We also learned to see the big picture and to compromise. In short, we learned to work as a collaborative team! And it is well worth it. I could not survive without the support of our Collaborative Teams.

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