This blog was authored by Erin Hall, the founder and executive director of the Young Educators Society. YES is an organization focused on fostering the professional development of educators through connection and collaboration. Read more about YES at www.yesri.org.
Teaching is isolating work. It is so easy for a teacher to spend days at a time exclusively inside the four walls of their classroom, managing their students and content in their own unique and personal ways. This is sometimes necessary; with the influx of testing and tight deadlines, sticking to strict scheduling is crucial in order to set students up for success. However, teaching a collaborative activity, and it is incredibly challenging for teachers to succeed in their jobs without a supportive community.
Collaborative communities allow teachers to find confidence in their skills and learn new ones. It seems like common sense, so thankfully the data proves it. Dēmos and NY Academy of Science ran a study of new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teachers and found “beginning teachers who are able to collaborate with other teachers and attend new teacher seminars are less likely to change schools or leave the profession than teachers who do not begin their careers with these types of support at hand”. Sharing assessment practices, real life experiences, or content-specific strategies, can generate meaningful conversations and group problem-solving that doesn’t always happen in, for example, a mandatory grade-level meeting.
This focus on collaboration encourages teachers to open the doors to learn new skills, and look beyond their classroom walls to collaborate with outside educators. Professional learning networks (such as unions, professional content societies, et cetera), or educational non-profits such as Sprout and STEM, are great resources for this. Teachers should not feel the need to constantly be the only expert in their field. That isolating impression is the biggest roadblock to true collaboration. Rather, joining or creating a community that allows for a sharing of resources supports teachers striving to create a learning environment that sets up their students for success in an innovative workforce.
Intentional collaboration is also a great model for students! When they see teachers isolating themselves, they cannot see the growth mindset in action. By opening doors and making the learning environment a communal space, teachers are modeling skills that students will use in every aspect of their lives outside of school. They will see that the learning process never ends, and understand the importance of working together as a community to be progressive members of an educated society.
Through a collaborative community, teachers are able to grow professionally, expand upon their skill sets, and model exceptional learner qualities for their students.