Lorie Steed is the media coordinator at Central Davidson High School. Not only does Lorie love literature and libraries, she is also an accomplished writer and poet in her own right. Lorie coordinates the high school library PLC and also helped to organize the #EdCampDCS last spring.
One of my big goals this year is to impact student learning through teacher collaboration. Of course, that’s always been an important goal for all of us, but it’s very easy to get caught up in administrative tasks that pull our focus from teaching. It’s also a challenge to find time to collaborate--we’re all extremely busy, especially the first few days of the school year. However, I wanted to share some quick and easy ways I found to connect with teachers during the first few days of school in order to build successful collaborative relationships.
My first collaboration was with Lisa Pritchard, our Marketing and Entrepreneurship teacher, and took place over a couple of five-minute conversations. It all started with an article I came across this summer in my Pocket feed, about a new type of umbrella that opens and closes “inside out” to make it easier and less messy to use. “I need to share this with Lisa when school starts back,” I thought to myself, tucking it in the back of my mind. As Lisa passed through the library on one of the teacher workdays, I told her about the article, thinking it would be good to share with her Entrepreneurship class. She was excited and asked me to pass the article on, so I Googled “new kind of umbrella” to find the link and send it to her. During this process, I discovered yet another “new type of umbrella,” one that pushes rain away from the user by using an “invisible force field of air.” I sent both links to Lisa, suggesting it might be interesting to compare the two, and by the next day, she had created a short Google Slides presentation to use as an introduction to Entrepreneurship the first day of school. I planned to visit her class during the lesson, but the day got away from me--my loss! She said the activity was a success, especially because it took a concept students were familiar with--the umbrella--to help them understand how entrepreneurship works.
I had another opportunity to visit Lisa’s class though, and this also came about through that initial five-minute conversation, when she told me that the big project for her Entrepreneurship class involves students coming up with a new product or service and creating a business plan. She said they often had trouble coming up with an idea. “I’d love to help with that,” I told her. As a creative writer, I’ve had my own struggles generating ideas, and I thought some of the strategies I learned to help myself could help her students as well. So I visited Lisa’s class later that same week, teaching a lesson to help her students come up with a product that matters to them. We started off watching a short video clip from the popular show Shark Tank (a video I remembered from my Facebook feed a while back) to illustrate the idea that the best products are about people and their passions. I then had students freewrite or cluster for five minutes about things they had strong emotions about, whether negative or positive. I encouraged them to not censor themselves and told them the activity would not be collected--it was just a starting point for them to find out what matters to them, what drives them. After a brief discussion, I encouraged students to stop by the library if they needed to further brainstorm ideas. Already one student has taken me up on the offer, and as a result, now has a project idea she is truly excited about.
My experience with Lisa’s Entrepreneurship class proves that collaboration doesn’t have to mean setting aside an hour or even a half hour for a formal meeting. I’ve created a Google form to record my attempts at collaboration so far this year, and most of them have started with an idea or resource that made me think of a certain teacher or department, me sharing that idea through email or a quick conversation, and follow-up. To illustrate, here is what I have documented so far.
As you can see, I still have conversations I need to follow up on, but the Google form is a record of what I’ve done and what I still need to do, as well as a tool that helps me see what departments I still need to reach out to. I’ve also used an asterisk to note which conversations were initiated by me (the ones with no asterisk were initiated by the teacher). As I continue to share my desire to collaborate with teachers, more are coming to me, and I’m excited about that. I plan to share this form with my teachers soon, so they have an easy way to request my services as a co-teacher in their classrooms.
In closing, I encourage you to find your own way of starting these small conversations with teachers. Stop them in the teacher workroom, or have lunch with them one day. Ask them to share their pacing guides with you. Let them know you are interested in helping their students learn. Examine how your own unique knowledge and skill set might apply to a lesson they’re teaching. And that article you clicked on while browsing Facebook or your Pocket feed? Who knows--maybe it will help you build your next collaborative relationship.
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