8.1 Participating in a Professional Community – Relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation.
While I was part of a program cohort during the summer, I had to redefine my role and identity from student to teacher when I became part of the professional learning community at my internship school. The 3rd grade PLC collaborated on procedures, curriculum, and instruction using different techniques but teaching similar content with consistency throughout the entire grade. This coordination and cooperation has been the most effective in how we organize and teach math.
For most of the day, students learn their core subjects within their own classrooms but during the afternoons they may move to different classrooms and teachers. At the beginning of each topic, the 3rd graders pre-assess each of their own classes then meet together and separate their own students into mixed groups according to the pre-assessment results. Each teacher then takes a group of 25 to 29 students, with students from every 3rd grade class, and teaches that group with differentiated instruction aligned with the EnVision math curriculum.
Throughout the unit, the PLC meets to discuss informal assessments, quick-checks, effective math teaching practices, and student progress with one another. Often communication between teachers is in regards to maintaining similar standards and consistency for students, not only in grading work but also in monitoring behavior. When students are moved out of their homeroom teacher’s classroom, their learning needs such as preferential seating, behavior charts, and individual education plans move with them. By taking time to collaborate and coordinate with the other 3rd grade teachers, they know that students in my classroom will be held accountable to the same expectations as in their own. Students can know that that my authority, even as a student teacher, is supported by and endorsed by all the 3rd grade teachers regardless of who their main teacher is.
According to Brown (2012) partnerships between novice and veteran teachers provides new teacher the opportunities to “test out their plans, learn about good practices, and be observed in the classroom” and “to pick colleagues’ brains, figure out what works and apply it to your classroom” (p. 27). As an emerging educator, a novice student teacher, the amount of trust that working so closely with other 3rd grade classrooms generates has given me plenty of ways to discover what already works but also provide me support in trying out new practices knowing that the other teachers, and not just my mentor teacher, wants me to learn as much as their students do. While Moir (2011) identified that a main struggle in the “survival phase” for new teachers is “the constant need to develop curriculum” I have had the expertise of more experienced teachers to rely on, who have developed a system and a way to implement curriculum that is effective. Without having that pressure, I have been able to innovate and try out ideas from my program and see how they integrate with the structures already in place.
I am grateful to the PLC community at my internship school not only because it has provided me more freedom in learning how to become a teacher but also that as another teacher I can be used as a resource to provide additional instruction to students. While my mentor teacher instructs a mixed class on multiplication facts, I can take the same curriculum and lesson and parallel teach it to a smaller group of English Language Learners focusing on breaking down the word problems to find the math. I can coordinate with the other 3rd grade teachers, pulling out students for a few minutes to review a test or to reteach concepts. The 3rd grade PLC has provided me included and immersed me in their teamwork and in turn has taken opportunities for my learning into opportunities for student learning.
Moir, E. (2011). Phases of First Year Teaching. New Teacher Center. Retrieved from http://www.newteachercenter.org/blog/phases-first-year-teaching
Brown, D. (2012). Now That I Know What I Know. Education Leadership, 69(1), pp.24-28.