To the Editor:
Laurie Barnoski’s Commentary, “School Leaders: Don’t Let Your Teachers Lose Heart” (April 3, 2013), was an important reminder of the emotional and professional demands of teaching.
While I agree with many of the common-sense recommendations Ms. Barnoski had for encouraging our teachers, the most important thing we can do is give them time to work together, to collaborate. The idiom “many hands make light work” holds true in schools where educators are encouraged to build shared strategies to deepen student learning.
The National Center for Literacy Education, or NCLE, just released a survey report, “Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works,” with responses from 2,400 educators across all grade levels and subject areas. When asked what kind of professional learning they value most, educators cited co-planning with colleagues because it allows them to actively exchange ideas and implement new approaches quickly and effectively.
Sarah Brown Wessling, a good friend and former national teacher of the year, says collaborative practice allows educators to become learners again. As an experienced, innovative high school English teacher, Ms. Wessling knows that when collaboration is the norm, trust among educators soars and insights about effective practices spread. This leads to greater job satisfaction and sustained school improvement.
Yet despite strong interest in collaborative practice and decisionmaking among educators, results from the NCLE’s findings and the 2009 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher on collaborating for student success show that the time available for structured collaboration in schools is small ... and shrinking rapidly.
If we want to embed educator collaboration and problem-solving in the school day, we need to think boldly about how instructional time is organized, how to eliminate nonessential duties, and how other education professionals and students themselves can collaborate.
It’s time to stop piling on the initiatives and start building the capacity of educators to work together on the real issues that inhibit high-quality teaching and learning.
National Center for Literacy Education
National Council of Teachers of English
A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 2013 edition of Education Week as Teachers Should Receive More Time to Collaborate