This week I had the opportunity to go into the school I have been fortunate enough to be given full-time employment by in September. It was an extremely gratifying experience walking through the halls with the Head of Key Stage not constantly worried about what impression I was giving in case it affected my chances of securing employment. Of course I was still on my best behaviour! It was at this stage I was informed (although I had been warned that this may be the case) that I would be teaching in Year 6 for my NQT year. As I said when the Head first mentioned this to be I would be ‘understandably anxious but willing to take on the challenge’. Now that the decision had been officially made, a bit more anxiousness crept in.
I was able to meet the other Year 6 teacher, with whom I would be working during the next academic year. At this point I came to a vital recognition – this would be the first two-form entry school that I would ever had worked in, including placements! I had never had the experience of having a colleague who would be working with the very same year group as I would be. We had some time to chat and they gave me some plans from the current year to give me an idea on what had been done this year and may be good to do some searching on.
As the conversation unfolded, I remembered a comment made by the Head of Key Stage before I met with the Year 6 teacher – that the current Year 6 teachers did not get on so the Year 6 Leavers Play would be split into two different plays rather than the joint production that was normally produced. The Year 6 teacher I’d be working with also commented on how she was looking forward to the next academic year and how ‘It will be nice to have a good year…’
Thoughts and Discussion
This all highlighted something to me that is absolutely vital, particularly between common year group teachers – collaboration is key. I cannot express how relieved I was (particularly after the revelation I would definitely be teaching Year 6 for my NQT year) to hear that not only would there be another Year 6 teacher but also they were almost anxious to collaborate on the curriculum that would be delivered. Phillips (2013) is just one researcher who found that collaborative practice was much more effective than ‘going it alone’. It is clear to see in the teaching arena today the push towards a tighter, closer-knit community which shares good practice and develops one another’s skills and knowledge. The increasingly popular TeachMeets are just one example of this trend, as well as the trending outlet for teaching professionals to share views, ideas and opinions on Twitter.
To me it makes total sense. I could not imagine working in a school where there is a colleague working with the same year group and we do not share ideas or things that have worked with our class. Now of course, every class is different. Collaboration may lead to things being put into practice that may not work for your own class. I imagine as well there are times where personalities, or teaching styles simply clash. If teaching styles do clash would it be better for collaboration to be forced for the sake of collaboration, or would in this instance would it be better for the practitioners to go it alone? I personally would think that whatever encourages the teacher to teach in the way that they feel most confident in should be the route chosen. In some cases, that may well be to not collaborate – however, I think this may be a minority.
So, what am I to do as a result of this ramble? It will be imperative for me to use this fantastic opportunity to learn from a more experienced professional whilst also offering my thoughts and expertise where I can. I remember a presentation of a group paper given at University where the group spoke of being an NQT like they were a trainee among masters who had no knowledge or whose lack of experience would constantly be a burden. While this may be true to a degree, NQT’s should also take courage in the fact that they are, in fact, teachers and have something to give to a collaborative, professional environment.
What is the learning community like among your staff in your school? Is the staff group open and do they desire, even crave, opportunities to share excellent practice, not just between common year group classes but across the whole school? Is your teaching collective more reserved and keep the learning that goes on in their classrooms (figuratively) within the walls of that classroom? How can we encourage teachers, at whatever stage they are at, to share more, collaborate more and improve each other, as well as themselves?
Phillips, L. (2013) Knowledge and power in collaborative research: a reflexive approach. Routledge: Oxon.
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