Arief Ebrahim •

Esther Starkman School • Edmonton, Alberta

Creating a Culture of Collaboration

Moving 50+ teachers into a brand new school is a challenge on many levels. Most obvious is the challenge the principal of this school faced ensuring all staff work together as a cohesive unit who are focused on a singular goal of “high level of learning for ALL students.”

Mr. Kushnir (our principal), started with a fundamental necessity of a PLC which was to establish our school culture around the tenants of a PLC. Mr. Kushnir started to establish our culture around what is most important in terms of transforming schools. He embedded a mind-set within his staff to want to meet and collaborate in learning teams around the following: targeting ELOs, creating and implementing common assessments, and data analysis.

While examining the above mentioned processes, teachers were reminded to draw connections to the "4 big questions." Teachers not only met but they met with a purpose. Our teachers tackle the issue of inequity in learning and teacher isolation by meeting regularly while having discussions focused on what is truly important for student learning.

Newer teachers are given the additional support with understanding the fundamentals of good pedagogy and more experienced teachers are gently challenged to reflect on their past teaching practices ensuring they are doing what is best for the students in their class. This happens within a culture of support. Teachers feel they have someone to check in with. They have conversations that lead to what is known as transformational learning.

What they did in the past is seen differently every time they are exposed to new ideas and strategies. Every discussion, idea and strategy is focused on the real day-to day context our teachers are immersed in. This is what makes the “teacher learning” meaningful. Teachers can see the positive results of their collaboration with a few days.

Our commitment to job-embedded professional development has a dramatic impact on the way we implement our new learnings. Unlike other PD sessions that are a “one-off,” we have made PD a daily part of the work we do every time we get together and determine best practices.

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