Monday, February 16, 2015

Collaborative Planning

One of the latest trends in schools is the encroachment on teachers' planning periods. This coveted block of time was once a time for teachers to plan uninterrupted and without submitting an agenda to administration twenty-four hours in advance (with follow-up minutes).  The modern teacher planning period has been turned into collaborative planning with mandatory attendance sheets.  As a teacher-leader, one of my responsibilities is to run collaborative planning for my department at least once a week.

Prior to becoming a teacher-leader, I used to dread collaborative planning day.  The department head would to dictate which lesson had to be planned, regardless of whether or not it was appropriate for the students in our classes.  Most weeks, the teachers would spend so much time battling with the department head over her agenda that no planning actually took place.  Here are some things that I implemented this year to make collaborative planning a more positive experience:
  • Let Teachers Take the Lead: The point of collaborative planning is to allow teachers to collaborate.  Since we have sheltered classes for newcomers, everyone agreed at the beginning of the year that it would be most beneficial to spend our collaborative planning time aligning instruction across the content areas.  The teachers decide how to best plan instruction to meet the needs of their students. My job is not to judge, but to offer support through gathering materials, offering feedback or telling the teachers to mark me down as a co-teacher when needed for a particular lesson.  
  • Always Walk Out With a Finished Product: Collaborative planning should not be a burden. The teachers in my department have multiple preps.  The fact that they know that they will walk out with a plan for their newcomers every week is a huge relief to them.  Teachers even go to great lengths to participate.  Since we use Google Drive to create our collaborative planning documents, department members have participated from their sick bed.
  • Collaborative Planning ≠  Meeting: In order to maximize the amount of time that is used to plan, I often send out e-mails with general announcements in order to prevent collaborative planning from turning into a meeting.  Some may argue that it is important to say things to a group as some teachers do not check their e-mail.  The teachers in my department do check their e-mail on their district issued laptop and iPad, so I don't have to go there.  Plus, I have always found that the same people that ignore my e-mails also tend to ignore the live version of me.  At least with e-mail, there's evidence of the information being transmitted.

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