Friday, October 7, 2011

My Wish for El Sistema-inspired Programs: Collaboration

Rebecca Levi and Levi Comstock team-teaching at CLCS
Last week I shared my experiences working with the El Sistema Boston staff at Conservatory Lab Charter School and how powerful collaboration can be.  Collaboration works.  It's why all JAMM classes are team-taught.

If I could wish anything for a new initiative, it would be a team-teaching model, especially in those critical start-up years.  Here's why:
  • Your weakness may be the other teacher's strength.  Together you create better lessons, while learning from one another.
  • Together you build common language, consistent school culture and expectations.  Students need to know the boundaries.  If rules and expectations change each time students move to a new classroom, they'll spend their time trying to figure out the rules by testing them, instead of focusing on the music. This is often the cause of misbehavior.  Team-teaching helps cut down on this chance of inconsistency among staff.
  • You are willing to take risks and try new strategies when you have support from another colleague.
  • You hold each other accountable for the success of the lesson by planning ahead together and establishing your roles.
  • You can reflect on lesson delivery more thoroughly when you have the benefit of two different perspectives.
  • You can have eyes in the back of your head! Your colleague can catch what you may have missed.
  • You can attend to misbehavior without having to disrupt the flow of the class.  Your colleague can often prevent the issue by proximity and by attending to it early on. 
  • You are modeling teamwork for your students, an important skill for them to see adults doing. 
I'd like to thank the Glacier Valley and JAMM staff for investing in a team-teaching model.  It takes trust, but no one teacher has all of the answers.  By reaching out to colleagues and community members for inspiration and expertise, collaborative teaching will not only enliven and diversify instruction, but also remind you that you are never alone.

Mrs. Peters' class benefits from three teachers:  Mrs. Peters, Mr. Xia & Miss Heagy
Nikki Shorts and Brandon Brack at YOLA at HOLA, where team-teaching is part of its culture

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