- Teaching in a Pandemic: Help Teachers, Help You - February 2, 2021
- The Importance of Feedback in Distance Learning - October 9, 2020
- What a Teacher Wants: One Teacher's View - March 25, 2018
- Artist is Not a Dirty Word - March 18, 2018
- The Death of Reflection in English/Language Arts Classrooms - March 9, 2018
- More Than A Teacher - March 4, 2018
- Real Teaching Resolutions - January 5, 2017
- 23 Times I have Questioned My Sanity While Teaching - September 7, 2016
- Part 3: Adventures in Real Word English/Language Arts - Let Them Be Great - August 23, 2016
- Part 2: Adventures in Real World English/Language Arts: Making Them Care - August 4, 2016
We have been in school a few weeks now and my juniors are experiencing the reality of actually having to study, balance club and athletic activities, and complete homework. They are beginning to drown because they are not used to it so desperation sets in. Our chemistry teacher picked up AP essays from a few of my students who were working on them during her lesson. I caught students copying from Spanish workbooks and picked up those assignments. Our Spanish teacher shut down students that were talking about our chemistry teacher in a negative way. The American History teacher discusses the differences between the Pilgrims and Puritans bringing up my lesson last week. In the words of one of my students, “Ya’ll junior teachers don’t play.”
No, we do not. Just like in our English department, our junior teachers are a team. We have each other’s backs and that is comforting to know that the same high expectations are across the board and there is no escaping it. We have to be on the same page because it is more than an “us against them” policy. There is a comfort in knowing that your colleagues will be there for you. If do not feel like your colleagues would take up for you, it is an added stress and we all know added stress is not something we as teachers need. I enjoy meeting and talking with my English department, but we do not teach the same students during the same year and they change from year to year so what worked freshman year may not work for them anymore. When you teach the same students during the same year, there is no reason you should not form relationships with the same grade level teachers. There is no need to have more meetings all these things can be established through emails, causally passing each other in the hall, or a text message. We have never had a “formal” meeting about the junior class, but we discuss what we would like to see happen and then we make it happen.
Establish Consistency. Create common rules and regulations and the students will appreciate the consistency. It is so much easier to follow the same set of rules for four different teachers than trying to remember four different sets of rules, especially when it comes to late work and homework policies. Form high expectations and work to maintain them. When there is no “easy” core class, the students strive to be better across the board. We each have a calendar in our class on the white board listing important test dates and events. Students turn in their papers the same way. It may not sound like much, but little things matter.
Positive Environment. Our Spanish teacher put up a sign her in classroom that said, “We only speak positively about each other, our teachers, and our school.” I love that. Bad mouthing other teachers is not a way to earn the respect of our students. Be professional and shut down any and all talk about another teacher. Students that struggle usually blame the teacher, and while sometimes there are personality differences and different teaching styles, most of the time the student isn’t giving one hundred percent or doing the work at home. I know my colleagues would shut down any talk about me, therefore I establish the same culture in my classroom.
Communicate. Talk to each other about upcoming test dates and try not to put everything on a Friday (The calendar comes in handy here). If teacher A is having problems with a student, find out what is going on and try to help her. Being part of a grade level team works more efficiently because we have the same students and chances are that if the student is struggling in her class, he or she is struggling in everyone’s class. We have them for a semester or a year and working together is how we can make sure they are getting the best education they deserve.
I love my English Department, but I enjoy working with teachers with different curriculum. I can tie subjects from American History to my American Literature class. I know our Spanish teacher has great relationships with our ESL students and she helps me find materials so I can help them in my classroom. Our chemistry teacher taught me the scientific method and I have used it my research paper unit. We are all in this together and once the students see that we are united they will focus on being the best they can be, not trying to weasel out of doing homework because they can do in English. We may not be able to control the entire school, but we can control what happens in our classrooms and when a grade level unites there is no stopping us.