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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How to Work with the No-Share Teacher

Holden Clemens (a pseudonym) is a teacher in Springfield, U.S.A. In today's post, he continues his series on practical tips for working with various exasperating educational archetypes.

A few years back I was working at Pascoe Senior High School and I was teaching a wonderful group of students in Honors American Literature. New that year was a teacher that was teaching the same class as I was. I was excited. New blood in a department can be a great way to exchange different ideas, and this can make everyone better at what they do. Sadly, it appears that this new teacher failed the Sharing unit in kindergarten.

As a teacher, I feel that sharing is important. We all beg, borrow and deal with others in an effort to provide the best learning experience for our students. There needs to be a give and take. Just taking and never giving makes you a bad colleague. Not sharing in school is as ridiculous sounding as the Department of Education sending a swat team to bust someone for delinquent student loans. Right?

At first, the new teacher asked for a lesson here and there and I never thought anything of it. (This person was only new to the district, not the profession. He/she had four years somewhere else.) Yet when I asked for materials, I was told they would come in an email, but they would never appear in my inbox. I realize now that I had a better chance of getting a personal DM from my Congressperson than I did getting any materials out of this new teacher. The big questions I wondered was, "Why?" Why would a teacher not want to share their material?

Maybe the material was bad. Perhaps the teacher thought it would be easier to take stuff from others instead of creating the work on his/her own. Either way, it's lame. A good teacher tailors each lesson for the specific students in the classroom. Lessons cannot be slid into any class slot with adjustments. All lessons need to be adapted for the group of kids sitting in the desk. That is what makes a teacher a good teacher.

It came to a point where I had to decide whether or not I was going to continue to share with this person. Is that fair to the kids? Are my lessons truly my own or are they created for my department? I finally decided to stop sending my lessons over email and told the teacher that I would love to sit down and go over my lessons and I really wanted to hear about the exciting adaptations he/she was making to them. I never heard back from this teacher. Other teachers in the department complained to the department chair and the teacher was eventually let go at the end of the year. It was a sad ending to a story that did not have to end that way.

As teachers, sharing should be second nature to us. We should want to share what we do with others in the hope of making life a bit easier for them and their students. Sadly, many teachers are guarded and are afraid of being judged. I know I have some lessons that are terrible, but sharing them could allow me the chance to make them better. If you have a colleague that is afraid to share but wants your materials, offer to sit and go over them. If they take you up on the offer, create an environment where they feel comfortable opening up about their lessons. If they don't accept, send them the crappy stuff. They won't know the difference.

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Natalie's picture
Natalie
Private Reading Tutor/Music Teacher

Holden, you hit the nail on the head about "being judged". I have a family member who is a no-share teacher. It is a sad and lonely world. The absence of critique used effectively is like not being able to walk. It's such an important part of teaching. My "no share relative" has had family emergencies to tend to and refuses to have a substitute in his classroom. He is so guarded. This stifles natural communal relationships. He is missing out on so much.

I have been studying PLC's and their advantages to student learning. The collaboration of teachers is the sweetest part of teaching. It's renewal, it's creative, it's warmth and friendship. Sadly, we all know people who don't want to trust their colleagues. I believe that peer observation should be mandatory in school, just to break the seal on isolation and embarrassment. A transparent school is a student centered school.

Andrea Weis's picture
Andrea Weis
7th and 8th grade Latin in Cincinnati, Ohio

Sharing for the first time can be very intimate! It's up to us to make people feel comfortable even sharing the stuff that they think may be coming up short. Getting to know the person and finding a few things that you think are great and then telling them how you used their good ideas goes a long way.

I remember my first years of teaching and thinking "God, this is so awful", but another teacher found a copy left in the machine and complimented the layout and said it would help him. That opened a door-I was able to say, "yeah, but I need to improve. . . . " And he helped me! From there it snowballed-I never hesitate to contribute kernels and let others help me pop the corn!

Corah's picture

I love sharing! However, how do you handle the teacher who takes credit for something you created? I have no desire to go into administration but there are those who will use what you've done to get themselves advanced.

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