Q&A: Scheduling Collaboration Time for Multiple Teams
The following question was sent in to AllThingsPLC.info:
If a high school teacher has two or three preps, how does he or she serve on more than one collaboration team? I presume teams usually meet at the same time.
—Larry Bernbaum, Central Valley High School, Washington
Here is Dan Cohan’s response:
Hello Larry. Congratulations to you and Central Valley High School for striving to engender more effective collaboration in your teams.
This is a great question. As a former high school math teacher, assistant principal, and principal, I understand how challenging serving on multiple collaborative teams can be, especially considering the workload involved with teaching multiple preps.
In my experience working with my own staff as well as other schools, your assumption that PLC teams meet at the same time is a key issue. If you have the luxury of implementing collaborative time more than one time per week, this opens up many opportunities for working on more than one team. For example, at my high school, we scheduled collaborative team time on Mondays and Fridays during a block of time from the end of the last period until the end of the workday, 45 minutes total. These days were scheduled carefully, with Mondays serving as team time for the teacher’s primary course (the class the teacher taught the most) and Fridays serving as a secondary team meeting.
If you do not have the luxury of more than one opportunity per week for collaborative team time, I would suggest the following possibilities:
- Arrange the collaborative team schedule by the month—primary teams meet on first and third weeks, secondary or tertiary meet the other weeks. In my experience, while it is important to meet regularly, quality of team meetings is paramount to quantity. If you follow the guidelines of well-functioning teams as outlined in the many professional learning communities resources, you will quickly see the importance of quality team meetings.
- Work with your principal and master scheduler on arranging common planning times with your course teammates. I understand the importance of individual planning time to accomplish the multitude of tasks required of teachers, but in my school, many teams were willing to give up one planning period per week to engage in collaborative work with their teammates.
- Get creative with study halls, access periods, seminars, assessment days, etc. We quickly realized that we could institute collaborative team time immediately by combining study halls and strategically planning access periods. We also took advantage of the consistency in testing days at the high school level and combined classes that were testing at the same time to allow teachers to collaborate.
In general, I would argue there is always a way to implement effective collaborative team time. We have elective teachers with five preps who are still able to engage in meaningful collaboration with their colleagues. One other suggestion I will leave you with—on your journey in seeking meaningful collaborative time, you will find that longer blocks of time built into a daily/weekly schedule allow for much more effective team time. At my school, it took us much trial and error to realize we needed at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted time for a team of teachers to model effective collaboration. Once we realized this, the solution was relatively easy—we shifted our class periods up to start immediately when kids entered school to allow for a block of time in the afternoon. What a difference this made! This provided 45 minutes every day for team time, interventions, additional student support, professional development, etc. An important note here is that we did not alter the bus schedule; this was completely an in-house change.