There are many who portray the life of a teacher as an isolating experience despite being surrounded by students all day long. Once enclosed by the four walls and door of a classroom, teachers are on their own to perform the myriad of tasks necessary for students to learn effectively. Now imagine that the space is shared. There are many reasons why this occurs and the initial response may be something like, “What? Someone in MY classroom? That will never work. I have MY ways of doing…” whatever established patterns and classroom setups work best for us.
Now the apple cart is turned as we have to figure out how to share space and be considerate of another professional who is equally in charge of their own patterns of teaching and doing what is best for their students. Between shared classes, materials have to be set up and broken down to make way for the different lessons that share the same space. So can we make this work to our advantage?
Yes. We can.
First, the walls of territorialism have to come down. Public school = public classroom. The room is not owned.
Second, perhaps the “invader” shares your subject and passion for it. If the classes that share prepare similar activities, and the educators involved are passionate about their subject areas, collaborative working relationships can be beneficial in establishing optimal efficiency in daily classroom setup as well as in lesson-creation and preparation for those classes.
In the beginning, a careful “dance” is established as each recognizes that there is tremendous energy wasted setting up and breaking down activities between classes. Once that happens, then the foundation of a relationship can take hold as some lessons and tasks begin to be shared. As each educator watches the other, each gains confidence, and new roles can be established. For instance, when one educator is extremely creative, the other can take a facilitator role. One educator can spend time creating amazing lesson units with objectives and timelines while the other facilitates the everyday tasks such as finding artwork, arranging accessory reading materials and worksheets, making copies for the group, updating class webpages and online plans, etc. Each can support the other’s efforts, as there are constant communications about upcoming lessons that are force-fitted within the full daily routine. Roles can change provided that each recognizes the other’s ability to perform. As the relationship grows, with trust, a true partnership develops in which one verbalizes a thought and the other can carry it out. Eventually, the team congeals as a well-oiled machine often running on overtime because the passion to produce great lessons does not answer to a clock.
I clearly remember the day I was told I would have to share my science classroom with another science teacher. I imagined this arrangement would be a struggle; more work in an already busy day. Instead, it was both an opportunity and a gift that has positively influenced our skills as educators, and has informed and enriched our work. Further, the lines between our professional and private lives have been indelibly blurred and positively impacted as we both recognize that what we do and the level at which we bring it to the classroom is integral to who we are.
Collaborative teachers engage in an extremely rewarding partnership that is very similar to a marriage. Each participant brings their own strengths to the partnership and, over time, can count on one another to not just be a partner but to reflect each in a greater light than either would be on their own. Coming to work is a joy as there is energy every day in collaborating, executing and reflecting on what best practices are delivered to district students. All students do learn and are engaged in an energetic and inspiring environment. It is this synergy that nourishes the soul of the professional educators as they share the space within the walls of the building.