I have been working towards this AP Physics test and the time is just flying! I can't believe it has been two weeks since my last post. I have also been applying to graduate school and I had to do a writing sample. I felt the writing sample was blog worthy, so here it is in all of it's glory:
Writing Prompt: How can teachers collaborate with their peers to improve learning?
Collaboration is a key skill that teachers must have to be successful, thereby making their students successful. I have learned this in the 2 short years I have been teaching Physics. Collaboration with others can sometimes be difficult, especially when there are no other teachers in your subject area within your building. It does help to have another teacher with your same interests; they can be used as a sounding board for labs in science or for other classroom activities in other subject areas. However, do not discount collaboration outside of your subject area. I have done writing exercises in my physics classes and always check with a grade level English teacher so I know what to expect from my students. If I have no knowledge of their abilities or what they have already been taught, there is no way for me to justly assess them.
One of the ways we do collaboration in our district is through a required Peer Learning Community (PLC) meeting each Friday morning before school. The district has rearranged the schedule so we start 30 minutes late and teachers meet in groups for an hour. This required collaboration has been good for me personally. As a new teacher, I am hesitant to ask for help (frankly, its just not in my nature), but this forced collaboration has fostered a sense of community and sharing in which we help each other develop curriculum and in the case of science teachers, give labs to each other or help with ideas for new labs based on past experience. In my experience, this should be used in every building in the state. I have even used this time to meet with the other two physics teachers in the district, with the blessing of my principal and department chair, of course.
Another way teachers can collaborate is through web2.0 tools, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Delicious (social networking bookmarks), and/or wikis. I have been developing a two night class to teach about these very tools (discussion boards/wikis/blogs) and have collaborated with two other teachers on the project. While I collaborated on the project, we shared bookmarks of different websites and online journal articles by using www.delicious.com. One of the teachers with whom I collaborated is from Australia; she and I met through my blog and we have talked about the development of this class by using Twitter. I have begun using these tools to widen my circle of peers. The group with which I have recently become acquainted gets further and further away from my physical location with each new contact. It also increases the number of targets I can hit when I have a question about a teaching method or particular concept that I need to explore for class.
Finally, the last way I think teachers can collaborate is through simple everyday interaction. Our science department here at Putnam City High School is a place in which teachers feel a sense of community to share with others and to freely ask for help when they need it. While I am not sure this was a conscious decision on the part of the department head, I do think each person has worked to foster this type of interaction between peers. We eat lunch together every day and there is more learning that goes on during these lunches than even happens during our scheduled Peer Learning Communities. What more could a relatively new teacher like me ask for? Built in interaction with veteran teachers; it doesn’t get any better than that. I doubt there are many districts with these types of interactions designed to help their new teachers gain valuable information from experienced ones, but they should get these programs in place.
I am fortunate, even blessed, to have good administration who believes in the importance of peer interaction. Teachers must communicate with other teachers to be successful. We encourage, even require, peer learning within our class; why should we as teachers be expected to do any less?
I would love to hear what you have to say about this. Let me know by leaving a comment.