Strategic Partnering of Teachers and Staff
In a COVID world, the benefits of partnering are amplified. This year, your staffing may significantly change literally overnight. Partnering teachers with teachers and with other staff can provide continuity for students, support for teaching staff, and help schools leverage their existing resources. Strategic partnering provides many benefits and help you accomplish multiple goals. As with all Design Catalysts, partnering can be implemented in a variety of ways -- from more simple to more complex.
“In the spring, I reached out to a couple of PE teachers at other schools. We organized joint competitions with our students. The kids were required to complete physical exercise activities and submit proof of their work -- either by video, pictures, or parent validation. Working with my colleagues was definitely a support for me. We are already planning to expand the competitions to more schools in the fall.”
Luis Ortiz, PE Teacher
Coordinate school-wide and/or network-wide professional development for teachers who teach similar content. This encourages networking and can establish relationships that lay the foundation for future collaboration.
Plan Together during All-Remote Learning
Align collaborative planning time for teachers covering same content. With a fully-home-based schedule, a common lunch time can provide multiple options for vertical and horizontal teacher collaboration.
By partnering teachers, your school can more effectively handle sudden staffing changes due to illness or quarantine requirements. A substitute can be more supported when joining a team rather than handling a self-contained classroom alone. If a teacher must leave for some time, students may experience less disruption if they have relationships with multiple teachers.
In a fully-online or hybrid environment, this becomes particularly important.
“I was not so comfortable navigating an online classroom. I was so glad to partner with my colleague and see how she managed the live video sessions. I monitored the chat and answered students’ questions while she was presenting the material. I learned so much! Working together was great!” 5th grade teacher
Takes Some Groundwork
Implement Together -- School-Based
Subject-area teaching partners can plan and deliver content together. Roles can be differentiated based on teacher assets, comfort level, and goals of partnership.
Video Conferencing Partners --> lead presenter + chat manager(s)
Student Services Partners --> teacher + Diverse Learner teacher
Family Support Partners --> teacher + parent volunteer or SECA or other staff for enhanced outreach & communication
See how the Adams 12 school district in Colorado is utilizing unconventional staffing patterns to support small groups.
Article: Co-Teaching in Distance Learning
A middle school English and special education teacher share how they meet the needs of all of their students—and the new practices they’ll bring back to the classroom.
Plan Together Across the Network
Align collaborative planning time across the network for teachers covering same content. This can be particularly useful for small schools with single classes per grade and for specials teachers who are often the only one at their school(s).
Partnering for Skill Building & Optimizing Assets
Strategic partnering can facilitate skill building among teaching staff -- or decrease the need for wide-spread expertise in online content delivery. Not everyone has to be an expert at online teaching. However, through partnering, teachers can observe & learn from peers, perform the roles they are best at and share in all the aspects of managing an online or hybrid class experience.
The COVID reality limits some opportunities while opening up others. Cross-school collaboration within a network is not so difficult to imagine. The benefits can be great for small schools or those with staffing challenges.
Implement Together -- Network-Based
Subject-area teaching partnerships can take many forms. All of these scenarios could take place in a fully-home-based (remote) or hybrid setting with modifications.
Teachers can organize network-wide competitions, science fairs, art shows, and other project-based collaborations.
Teachers can plan and deliver live and/or recorded content together. Roles can be differentiated based on teacher assets, comfort level, and goals of partnership.
Networks can create a library of recorded lessons for use by teachers at all schools.
When teachers partner with student service providers, inclusion can be more robust (in an online or in-person context).
Consider also how English support needs of diverse learners can be accomplished in other subject areas. It is not hard to imagine how literacy support can be woven into Social Studies or Science.
Creating engaging experiences in this new reality can be challenging. Navigating this completely new reality can be exhausting. Now, more than ever student engagement and teacher support are critical.
Building connections with students will be paramount this year. Partnering can support continuity and decrease disruption if a teacher must leave due to illness.
Partnering can provide valuable breaks for teachers by cycling in and out of different roles.
Partnering can allow teachers who are particularly skilled at creating engaging online experiences share their expertise and talent with their colleagues.