Posted by Alyssa
Back to school time is here... And while the words "back to school" may evoke warm, nostalgic feelings for some; for teachers, "back to school" are three of the most overwhelming words in the English language. In the midst of all your classroom decorating, professional development, and meeting with administrators, it is easy to neglect planning new ways to enhance the collaborative environment in your classroom. To save you time, we compiled this brief list of 5 great collaboration tips from Edutopia.
Collaborating In the Classroom
1) Call Home
Yes, having a blog is great, and you're ahead of the curve if you use Edmodo, Facebook, Schoology or any other of a number of platforms built to help educators and families connect. But as busy as you -- and the parents of your students -- are, the more personal the initial communication, the better. If you can make five phone calls each day before heading home, you should be able to reach out with a positive message to each parent by the end of the first month of school. An alternative is hand-written postcards, but phone calls -- or better yet, face-to-face meetings -- are ideal.
2) Use Team-Building Activities
Team-building activities are excellent ways to get the year started right by connecting with students. So many students believe that they're starting off the year at a major deficit. Success -- or mere participation -- in an early team-building activity can change that.
3) Know the Names
This can be huge challenge for some teachers (don't ask me how I know), but do whatever it takes to learn the names of your students. Use your district's grade and attendance software if it provides student images from the year before. Developing five-minute games to start each class will help speed the process. Use assigned seats or nametags. Whatever you do, learn those names, and do so quickly. Nothing de-authenticates a relationship quicker than, "I really care about your learning Mr. -- wait, what's your name again?"
Collaborating In Your Building and District
4) Use Post-it Notes
The most thoughtful ways to collaborate are also the simplest. Post-it notes reacting to an idea given at a staff meeting or thanking another educator for his or her effort are casual but meaningful ways to build trust and a collaborative spirit in a school. Stick one to the screen or door of a fellow educator with a specific, authentic message, and establish the helpful tone of your working relationship early on.
Your Global PLN
5) Ask for Help
Early in the year, many other educators worldwide face the same challenges you do. Pinging your PLN early on can make them feel needed, and equip you with resources it might have taken you hours of Googling to find.
It's About the People
Getting the school year started right can mean calling home with a positive message, stepping out of your comfort zone or simply asking for help. The connections you make in August can serve you well through the trials of K-12 education. You never know when you're going to need help -- from an encouraging smile to a better way to assess a standard. While the Internet and social media are great, they are merely tools to connect you with the people behind all of the accounts. With so much to do, it can be easy to push collaboration back, but this can have a long-term erosive effect on your happiness in teaching.
The earlier you start, the easier it becomes.
Image via DenverPost.com