Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Tale of Two Plannings

I've had some comments from some regular readers (the number of which never ceases to amaze me), about the fact that we have two - count 'em - two planning periods at the school.

Yes, I know. It's wonderful.

How and why we got two planning periods is worth sharing, in the hopes that perhaps there are other enlightened administrators out there who see the benefit.

By the end of my first year at The School, Mrs. Eagle and I were getting together to make our lesson plans. It made sense, after all. We teach the same grade and subject. We have the same standards to cover. So, why should we reinvent the wheel when we could collaborate and come up with the same plans?

The only problem with this was that we didn't have the same planning period.

So, once a week we would get together and meet in the morning before school to come up with our lesson plans.

At six in the morning to be precise.

This wasn't fun. However, we did it, and pretty soon Mrs. Robin (who had little ones at that time and couldn't meet before school) started giving us some input as well, although she never could attend the planning get together. So three of us were collaborating on our lessons and activities we were doing with our kids.

Our test scores rocked. In fact, in terms of growth in student achievement, they were the best in the school. The Principal wanted to know what it was that we were doing that the others weren't. The only thing we could come up with was collaboration.

A few years later The Principal took about a dozen of us to the National Middle School Association conference which had lots and lots and lots of sessions all about collaboration. I remember sitting in with The Principal and Mrs. Eagle for one of the big keynote speakers - who talked all about collaboration - and having Mrs. Eagle lean over and whisper to both us of, "We're already doing this."

Well, we were. However, it wasn't really easy and it wasn't really convenient.

So The Principal decided that all the grade levels would have the same planning. And that we'd have not one, but two plannings. This gave us slightly shorter class periods (we went from six periods a day to seven), but it also gave the kids an extra related arts class (art, music, computers, etc.), and it gave us a chance to work with the other teachers on our team and the other teachers in our subject area. In fact, The Principal put in a requirement that teachers would plan together, just like we'd already been doing.

And our entire school's scores went up. A lot.

So we have the first planning for individual planning - this is also the period where we meet with parents. The second planning is for team meetings, data chats about benchmarks, and collaboration. We also give up one planning per week to work with our remediation students.

I don't know why or how, but this collaboration thing just works.

And I'm glad it isn't at 6:00 am anymore!


Mrs. T said...

I think it's awsome- and I am a fan of collaboration. I'm curious- what's your opinion on collaborating with someone you either flat out don't like or just aren't compatible in your teaching styles/philosophies?

Erica Thomas said...

Ugh, I wish my department colleagues were bigger fans of collaboration. Many, many teachers at my school have a very negative opinion of sharing or collaborating on anything, and don't show up or participate when we are required to meet. It's been nice lately because there are a few new teachers who are into collaborating.

Bethany said...

I am officially jealous. Not just of two planning periods but of the ability to collaborate. I AM the English department in my small school and the other teachers in my grade level think collaboration is giving me a copy of the order in which they teach their units so that I can provide similar reading.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Mrs. T...wish I could give you a more definite answer, but so far I've never had the opportunity to collaborate with someone I didn't like. I know some of the 8th grade teachers have fussed a bit about it, but they've sucked it up and dealt with it because of the payoff down the line. As for different styles or philosophies, even the three of us that work together now all have slightly different styles - we're presenting the same information but it's going to be reflected by how we teach as individuals.