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Collaboration

Jessica J. Brauer
Doane University | Initial Certification Program

Collaboration among colleagues is an important element to becoming an effective educator.


Opportunities to share ideas and ask questions, and even work across disciplines can only
help create success in classrooms throughout a school. I have included below reflections on
several different meetings which I have attended during my practicum and student teaching
experiences, in order to reflect upon this element of collaboration.

8th Grade Team Meeting: 6 September 2016

Every Wednesday and Thursday during 3rd Period, the 8th grade team meets to discuss
academics (Tuesdays) and behavior (Thursdays). Today, I attended one of the behavior team
meetings. The meetings begin with teachers sharing behavior success stories. This is a time
the teachers can discuss students who have perhaps struggled often in the past, but are
having some success in their classroom lately. Its good to consider the successes, and I like
that this meeting starts out with some positives. This leads well into the discussion of the
Students of the Week. Each week, the team awards a Student of the Week who has shown
exceptional behavior and/or hard work over the course of the week. These students get their
names read on the announcements and get a special lunch reward on Friday. The team
nominates students on Tuesday and then vote on Thursday. I love this idea, because, from my
observation, most often the students who are awarded are students who arent frequently
recognized for good things either because they struggle with behavior, or because they are
the type to work quietly in the background. My cooperating teacher was in the process of
nominating a student that we have in both our English class and Yearbook class who always
works hard, even though English isnt his first language and he struggles with his writing. It
had taken a few weeks of nomination, but he finally got selected this time. Im excited to see
his reaction when he hears that he won Student of the Week!

After deciding Student of the Week, the team meeting moves on to discuss specific PBIS
updates and discuss general reminders and what IEPs and other meetings are coming up.
Today, we were reminded to be writing Panther Paws, which are the school-wide reward
system for observed positive behavior. At Park, the paws are worth money in the school
store. As we discussed this reminder, I was immediately reminded of 2nd period today, when
one of our more difficult students had done what Id asked him (which he had not done for
me yet this semester). I had thought about giving him a Panther Paw for that, but I hesitated
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and wasnt sure, and now I regret not acting on it. I will ask my cooperating teacher if there
is a way to retroactively give the Panther Paw, or if it wouldnt make enough of an impact to
matter at all.

Finally, at the end of the meeting, we have a discussion about specific students who are
having trouble with behaviors. The teachers discuss what behaviors have been observed, and
the administrators discuss the plan to move forward regarding those behaviors. We
discussed options to help with particular behaviors for those students. The students we
discussed today were students my cooperating teacher and I do not have in class, however,
some of the ideas discussed for other students could be applied in our classroom for the one
or two students weve had trouble with so far.

This meeting was an interesting meeting, and I love the idea that everyone on the 8th grade
team - cross disciplines - get together to discuss ways to help struggling students. I think
collaboration in this way is essential in order to create cohesive plans for students. Im
curious about the academic meetings and whether they include an element of collaboration
across disciplines as well. I think I will ask about that!

Professional Learning Community (PLC): 10 January 2017

We had our first PLC meeting today. Usually, these meetings will be held in smaller groups
of teachers with similar classes. Today, however, the entire English department met to learn
about Turn It In, which is a software that LPS has access to which will check papers for
possible plagiarism. The cool feature of this software is that you can also do all of the
grading of the papers on it as well. Its not something we can utilize yet in Oral Comm, but I
might use it when we get to the Informative and Persuasive speeches. Im not sure quite how
Ill incorporate it with Google Classroom. It will be something to consider.

Professional Learning Community (PLC): 4 April 2017

My PLC group consists of three teachers all of whom have student teachers. Two of us
have a Holocaust Literature class. I am unsure about how the other teacher fits with our
group (as we are supposed to be grouped with people who have similar classes). Its been
interesting, however. Ive been told that usually administration has a directed goal for the
PLC group to be working on, but this semester, weve never received a goal. So instead, weve
developed our PLC to what wed like it to be, which is essentially a time to discuss methods
and share ideas. Its actually been pretty refreshing and very fitting within my idea of what
PLCs should be since I first heard about them. I, and the other student teachers, have been

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able to ask questions of the veteran teachers and get feedback on ideas. It has also been nice
to be able to collaborate and discuss with other student teachers. I asked one of the veteran
teachers what some of the past directives have been, and she explained that last year, the Oral
Comm teachers worked together to create a short unit around outlining, since that was an
area that was causing trouble with the students in their speeches. While I hope to have some
autonomy in my teaching, I do very much appreciate the collaborative nature of the PLC
meetings and having a designated time to sit and work with other teachers in my specific
field is invaluable. I would like to also see some cross-discipline collaboration as well, which
I may pursue in my own career as I become established in a building.

Staff Meeting: 31 January 2017

Today, I attended a staff meeting with my cooperating teacher. These meetings are held once
a month after PLC time on a Tuesday. As we walked into the commons area where the
meeting was being held, there was a table set up with teachers name tags on them. Each
name tag has a number, which is the table where you are supposed to sit. These are always
randomized, so teachers dont always end up just sitting by department or among friends,
encouraging community among the staff members. This was the first staff meeting of the
semester, so we began with a welcome back message and some general reminders. Then, we
did introductions around our table, and moved into the presentations for the meeting. The
first presentation was about Hapara, which is a software that allows us to see what the
students are doing on their chromebooks. I had received a walkthrough of this software in
my student teaching meeting at our first meeting the day before school, so most of the
information wasnt new. I did learn, however, how to target students screens to a specific
site, and how to create a new class. If I am able to continue with LPS and the LHS speech
team next year, I am already thinking of ways that I can utilize the software with the speech
team as well. It could be useful for sending messages and sharing links for research.

Next, we discussed some information out of the book Classroom Instruction that Works by
Marzano. We specifically discussed the first section about Creating the Environment for
Learning. In groups, we discussed different parts of the section, put our ideas on a poster
and then did a gallery walk of all the posters. We discussed providing specific and
meaningful feedback in our group. Honestly, most of the teachers had a pretty cynical view
of the things we were discussing because they were all things theyd already had in place in
their classrooms for some time. However, we still managed a discussion and came up with a
few ideas. It was interesting to observe and hear the teachers opinions about the staff
meetings in general. Most of the younger teachers seemed more eager to learn. Most of the
teachers at our table were actually hoping for more training with some of the software, but

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that had been cut short to allow for time for the Marzano discussion. While I understand the
need for additional professional development, I think it can be insulting, especially to older
teachers, when the meetings are consistently about practices theyve employed in their
classrooms for decades. I wonder if it would be more conducive to offer several different
meetings on different subjects and ask teachers to attend one that will be most helpful to
them.

Parent/Teacher Conferences: 13 February 2017

Parent/Teacher Conferences were tonight. We had 32 of 139 students show up. Of those 32
students, 13 had As, 8 had Bs, 7 had Cs, 1 had a D, and 3 had Fs. That is, of the 32, only 3
were failing students. One of the three failing students only needed to make up a test hed
missed. Needless to say, we saw a lot of parents we really didnt need to talk to. I started the
evening nervous, unsure of what to expect. I had attended part of Parent/Teacher
conferences during my practicum last fall, but my cooperating teacher ran most of those. I
was mostly there only for observation. This was the first time I would be in charge of
running the show. However, I had little concern for worry. With each set of parents, I
discussed their students grade and looked at what missing work they have. I also explained
that we have only had one summative grade so far in the class. Especially for those parents
who came in with concerns, this alleviated many concerns. Most of the students whose
parents I spoke with have been doing well on their speeches, and so I believe they will be
fine as they move into the summative speeches later on. There was one parent who came in
for one of my failing students who almost never comes to class. It turns out this student has
a lot of stage fright, and so hes been avoiding giving the speeches, and avoiding the class in
general. This was a surprise to learn, and I told the parent that I would talk with her student
next I see him to discuss some options. I hope perhaps we can help him turn around! At the
end of the day, I am glad for the experience. It has only reinforced the knowledge that I need
to be sure to keep the communication open with parents throughout the semester. We all
have a common goal of helping the student succeed, and it is important to remember that!