As a staff developer, consultant, school reformer, and change agent, I have frequently seen educators “give up” trying to be leaders and innovators because they needed time and, after looking for it, could not find any. One teacher lamented that she began a peer coaching strategy with three colleagues. The program died within two months because they were unable to find common time to observe and confer. Another teacher reported how a building-level staff development committee informed the principal of the need for early dismissal in order to conduct a two-hour information/planning session. The principal denied the request because he felt that the community would not accept an early dismissal. The program deteriorated.
How, teachers ask, can they engage in collaboration when no sustained blocks of time are available and work must be accomplished in short bursts of intense effort, and often alone? The question then becomes: Where can school leaders find the time in the school day and year for these activities?
I personally don’t believe they can. I think they need instead to make time. You can find strategies for making time in the following article: Time: It’s made, not found (by Stephen Barkley,Journal of Staff Development, Fall 1999 Vol. 20, No. 4). Additional authors writing on this topic can be found at www.nsdc.org.
Often, if teachers have the opportunity to experience the benefits of coaching and collaboration, they will be more inclined to carve out time on their own to continue. I recently worked with two school districts to develop the following outline for a 15 hour CEU or one graduate hour course.
Title: Peer Coaching and Collaboration: An Action Study
Text: Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching by Stephen Barkley
Structure: Four to eight teachers will form a study group. Each participant will complete at least one rotation of each of the following activities. A log and journal will be kept to document date, times, and reflections upon the learning from each of the activities. (Repeat any of the activities 2-6 to meet the 15 study hours)
1. Read the text
2. Attend a study group discussion to highlight and question critical issues from the text.
3. Observe a colleague’s lesson live or on tape and provide coaching feedback.
4 .Be observed (live or tape) by a colleague and receive coaching feedback.
5. Lead a conversation with colleagues to collect input on a lesson or unit plan prior to teaching it.
6. Lead a conversation with colleagues around your students’ work or assessment and gather suggestions for next steps.
Assignments: Submit your log and journal on completed activities. Include in your journal a final reflection on the value of your collaboration experiences. Examine the relationship between teacher collaboration and student achievement.
How do you create time and incentives?