Why make time for teacher collaboration?

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Why has Westside School increased time for teacher planning and collaboration?

Increasingly, research is gathering on the common traits of high performing schools. The wide variety of school cultures and demographics in our country mean it can be hard to generalize data, but one thing is clear across the board: our teachers are our most important resource, and schools that commit time to and invest in elevating teaching practice are seeing profound benefits for their students.

In particular, schools that make time for teachers to plan together, reflect on their practice, and regularly review and revise curriculum tend to create experiences that are most dynamic and responsive for all of their students. Click here to read a great article about the connection between collaboration with colleagues and student achievement.

The article notes, in part, “…social capital resides in the relationships among teachers. In response to the question ‘Why are some teachers better than others?’ a human capital perspective would answer that some teachers are just better trained, more gift, or more motivated. A social capital perspective would answer the same question by looking not just at what a teacher knows, but also where she gets that knowledge. If she has a problem with a particular student, where does the teacher go for information and advice? Who does she use to sound out her own ideas or assumptions about teaching? Who does she confide in about the gaps in her understanding of her subject knowledge?”

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One of the first things we looked at this summer was the Westside School schedule and calendar. We found there were a number of places we could add additional collaborative planning times for teaching teams in our current schedule, but also wanted to create the time and place for meaningful review of our curriculum by the whole faculty.

Deep school-wide curricular work takes a great deal of time, and often requires extended research into the best practices and possibilities of the profession. While we meet as a faculty weekly, our top priority is always coordinating current work and supporting students. This is the reason Westside School has added two early dismissal days and two teacher in-service days to the calendar this year. Each day will create time for faculty to participate in retreats dedicated to teaching and learning.

We’re confident the benefits of this work will soon be evident across classrooms in the school. We’ll share the work of those retreats as we progress! Click here to watch a video about the power of teacher collaboration!

Ted Kalmus, Interim Head of School

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WestsideHeadTed@tedkalmus