Thursday, June 23, 2016

Nine: Math Collegiality

Collegiality is a key ingredient to teaching well in any discipline today. I am definitely not an expert in this area, but I do regard this area with respect and a desire to learn more.

What makes collegiality an essential ingredient to teaching well?

First, none of us as educators can do all or be all. The job is enormous and intense, and every day you meet a new challenge, one you didn't expect or perhaps, haven't encountered before. That's when collaboration helps. You can talk with your colleagues to brainstorm and troubleshoot, and generally, together you meet a good resolve.

Next, you can't know all things. That's why our shared teaching model is so dynamic. Each of us has chosen areas to focus on with depth, and we direct our professional learning and leadership in those areas. For example my colleagues have focused in on reading and writing. They lead and I follow in those areas. I lead the math and they follow. That doesn't mean we don't share our expertise or time in the areas that we don't lead, but it does mean that we don't have to teach or stay on top of all content areas as our colleagues will do that for us.

And, as colleagues, we have a variety of life experiences, personalities, learning preferences, and family/friend groups. Acknowledging those differences and maximizing the positive attributes of our diversity supports good teaching and learning too. For example, if I'm having difficulty with a student that my colleague relates well to, she or he can guide me to teach that child well. Or, if I've learned something from my years of experience that my colleague may not know, I may share that. And, on the other hand, my colleague's youth and enthusiasm has the potential to spark my creativity and energy as well. In summary, together we do better.

In truth, no teacher is the best or worst, we all have talents, experience, knowledge, and skill to bring to the job, and our strength is in our TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More.

Good collegiality relies on good character, and good character sets the stage for mentoring and modeling what it means to teach and learn well for each other and for our students too. The attributes of good character are the foundation of teaching and learning well:

Respect: Polite tone and language, put yourself in their shoes, kindness
Responsibility: Do the job and do it with care on time
Perseverance: Don't give up. Keep pushing forward. Take risks, make mistakes and learn from them.
Thankfulness: Show gratitude, recognize what others do, be grateful.
Kindness/Courtesy: "Please, thank you, help, excuse me, can I help, what do you need. . ."
Self Control: Patience, a good routine, taking time to see the whole picture, good strategy/process
Honesty: Tell the truth
Cooperation: work with others, listen to their point of view, make time to make decisions together.
Tolerance/Acceptance: I'm only one in the sea of people and ideas, we all have a right to be here.
Friendship: Take care of each other, do what you can for one another.
Courage: Don't be afraid to speak up, ask questions, and stand up for what is right and good.
Humor: Have a sense of humor that helps as life is going to take many twists and turns.

Good collegiality demands also that we give each other space to be who we are and do the work that we need to do. Team profits from a regular schedule of time to work independently and time to collaborate. Collegiality is imperative when it comes to working well together, and this is a primary element of a successful math teaching/learning community.