Does the Reform Movement Threaten Team-teaching?

Posted by Nikhil Swaminathan

A piece in the Chicago Tribune looks at the growing trend of teacher collaboration, which can range from teachers sitting down to compare lesson plans to young teachers getting an assist from coaches and master teachers stationed in their classroom via walkie talkies.

It's the sort of innovation that should unite both reformers and union representatives. Teamwork and these Cyrano-type helpers aid teachers in developing better classroom presence, lessons, and ideas for getting through to their students.

The crux of the new methodology: Teachers can't work alone; they want, need, and can benefit greatly from the support of their colleagues.

It's a quiet reform in an era of more extreme moves such as firing principals, opening charter schools or splitting dropout factories into smaller schools. But in the quest to improve achievement, many educators say the job of teaching can't continue to be modeled on the idea of one adult standing alone in front of 30 students.

But, it's these so-called "extreme reforms" that, at the conclusion of the piece, threaten to block the move toward teamwork. With accountability-focused reformers, ideas like performance pay and value-added data reign supreme. Those metrics tend to reward individual efforts and pit teachers in adjacent classrooms against one another. 

Is there a way that accountability and teamwork can coexist? Mentoring young teachers and creating lesson planning teams and collaborative atmospheres for those teachers deemed in need of improvement seems like the obvious way to go. But, relegating these paradigms to just inexperienced and lagging instructors seems silly when even excellent teachers could benefit from new ideas and feedback.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user Old Shoe Woman