Monday, January 10, 2011

Tearing Down Walls

I think one of the more exciting things happening in schools today is teachers regularly meeting to learn from one another, share best practices, and discuss pedagogy. Some of my favorite meetings to observe are the Teaming meetings that now happen in many middle schools. Focused on students, these meetings inevitably open the door better outcomes for students and teachers alike.

I have long thought that the architecture of the traditional school lies. It tries to convince us that teaching is something that happens between one adult and a roomful of students. One big desk, twenty-five smaller desks. While much of the time-on-task of teaching is still like that, long gone (hopefully) are the days when teachers can operate effectively as if they were in a one room school house. Nor is gathering only in the silos of the traditional departments a solution to the challenge of being colleagues to one another in this profession.

Once I visited a school so close to Heathrow Airport in London that I thought the planes might land on the roof. Every Tuesday the staff gathers at the end of the school day for one of a variety of meetings.  Some Tuesdays they meet by department to discuss curriculum.  Other Tuesdays the focus is on student management issues and the staff meets in a hodgepodge of specialties and experience levels. Another Tuesday might be a free meet, during which you schedule time with a colleague with whom you are working on a special project; the only thing off limits on that day is not meeting with anyone.

Many things are shifting in education and the breakdown of the walls between teachers is one of them.

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