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My colleague does not share the changes in the program. How do I approach them?


A weekly advice column for K-12 teachers to share their joys, frustrations, and current questions about teaching.

I teach in the same class as one of my colleagues. We have to give the same assignments, tests, and assessments, but the other teacher keeps changing his curriculum without telling me. I only found out because one of the students in my class, who has a second teacher, asked me to help with an assignment.

I know everyone has different teaching styles, but I think it’s important that students learn the same content. This other teacher has been teaching the classroom longer than I have. What should I do? – I don’t know

out of the loop

To answer your question, we need to zoom out.

Historically, students studied in multi-class, one-room schools school houses. Theoreticians who led school reform at the beginning of the 20th century decided that teachers who want to build student learning should not work in isolation.

In the early 1960s, the term professional learning community (PLC) first emerged among researchers and became popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. PLCs give teachers the opportunity to use collective efforts to achieve a clear, shared goal of student learning.

You are ready for PLC. Your partner may not be.

PLCs came to my school district in the early 2000s, after I had been in the profession for five or six years. I remember that the implementation of PLC was difficult and the teachers were not very interested.

PLC requirements were closely related to student testing and common formative assessments. Administrators used testing data to determine whether students were learning, and some bonuses were determined based on those scores. Teachers resisted because they didn’t want to release robots that could do well on tests but didn’t necessarily know the content.

There are teachers who believe that all students can learn, just not in the same day and in the same way.

Your philosophy is different from your colleague. Which one of you is right?

Teaching doesn’t have to be like an episode of Survivor these days. When someone isolates themselves and doesn’t share information, there’s a reason.

Students do not suffer, and they can still thrive with either approach. It sounds like the relationship between you and your colleague is not really working. Ask yourself if there are ways to build trust.

How to break the ice

– Notice the positive. Teachers come to school early, stay late, bring work home, contact parents, grade work, plan lessons, write curriculum, manage behavior, provide social and emotional support, keep up with pop culture, redirect cell phone use, buy supplies , organize tours and guest speakers, as well as manage what the principal requests on a daily basis.

Have you noticed that your fellow teacher is good at any of these tasks? Check and recognize the teacher in authentic ways. Your opinion can make a big difference, even if it’s as simple as a thank you card or a gold star sticker.

– Look for ways to help. I remember attending teacher training courses at The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. I was impressed by Kim Bearden’s personal story of divorce as an educator and leader at this prestigious and renowned school. She suffered in silence. She suffered aloud for several days. Her story reminds us that we need each other to get through the toughest times in our lives.

We’ve all worked with a teacher who was overwhelmed. If you haven’t, you will.

Find out where and how you can provide support. You don’t know what that other teacher is going through. There is an unfortunate tendency for teachers to judge other teachers when there are really areas where they could use help. Ask. If the teacher doesn’t accept your suggestion, don’t keep pressing. Let time work in your favor.

– Trust your colleague. I have one literature class where I have to adjust my lesson plans every time. We move at a slower pace and sometimes I completely change the lesson from other classes. I am not doing this class a disservice. I adjust according to their needs. When it comes time to test, they will be just as prepared as the other classes because I know intuitively what they should be studying and how to remove irrelevant agenda items.

Another teacher has been teaching longer than you. I have to assume that you learned about PLC early in your career and adapted these concepts in your teaching. Your training partner may not have one. They may be working under PLC resistance, but believe their students are getting the information to succeed in the classroom.

– Don’t take it for granted. Let’s imagine your fellow teacher does the bare minimum and gets confused after this year. Lack of effort can really be frustrating at a time when there is so much work to be done.

Please don’t let these work habits get in the way of your personal and career goals. If a fellow teacher has derailed you, students will be faced with the problem of two distracted and possibly disconnected teachers.

out of the loop workplace dynamics can be complicated. Teaching is a career, not a life. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of alienating your colleagues. Come back full circle by creating an environment of trust and academic professionalism.

Dr. Kem Smith belongs to Chalkbit reviewer’s first tip. She is a full-time 12th grade English teacher in St. Louis, MO. Send your question to Dr. Kem via this form of representationand subscribe to How I teach to get her column delivered to your inbox.

If you have a rebuttal or additional advice you’d like to share Out of the loopplease email afterthebell@chalkbeat.org.

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