Friday, February 14, 2014

What do you mean we're on our own?

Chapter 4 from Math Exchanges ends by describing why collaboration is important.
Working together with your colleagues is the best way I can suggest to better understand the problem types, recognize strategies children use, and plan appropriate next steps for your students. Team meetings or teacher-formed study groups are a great way to start this kind of collaboration. (p. 81)
The teachers leading the chapter study last night wrapped up the discussion by focusing on this point. One said something like, "Yeah, because we are going to be asked to collaborate all the time: when planning, creating assessments, talking about student work. All the time. Right, Dave?"

I responded, "Actually, no." And the teacher who asked the question made a face. I went on a rant about teachers who shut their doors and "teach in silos." Here's what I wish I had said (with some parts of the rant included):


When I taught middle school, I was on my own most of the time. I was the only math teacher doing project-based lessons. There was no one to collaborate with in my district. It was exhausting and one of the reasons I left to get my PhD.

There are certainly schools that foster collaboration but in my experience they are in the minority. Mostly teachers keep their struggles and their successes to themselves. And that lack of support is one of the reasons teachers give for leaving the profession.

This is why I ask you to spend so much time collaborating on projects like researching the topics on the Landscape, planning math exchanges, and running these professional development sessions. I want you to get used to working together - to asking for and expecting support from your colleagues. It is my hope that with this next generation of teachers, collaboration, not isolation, is the norm.

So I want you to remember the face you made when I said, "No. Teachers often work alone." That face was perfect. I want you to remember that face and use it whenever you encounter any resistance to collaboration.


Yeah, it's still pretty much a rant. But in my defense, I am pretty passionate about teachers needing to connect. It's one of the reasons I promote the use of Twitter.

And the face the teacher made, you're probably wondering what it looked like. It looked something like this.

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