Teaching middle school is not for the faint of heart. But if you're called to do it, you know there's nothing else quite like it. Join us in discussing what works - and what doesn't.

Lack of Collaboration

Jennifer74 Social Studies

I am in my fouth year of teaching in a 7-12 rural school. I recently went back to school to pursue my master's degree and have experienced a "renewal" of sorts. Through the program, I have become increasingly aware of the lack of collaboration within my school district. We have "teams" based on grade level which meet about 2-3 times per year where members voice problems, but rarely offer solutions. My department (social studies) has never met since I began working at the school. Our principal (in his 5th year),is very enthusiastic about trying new methods, but gives in to the complaints of senior staff members who do not seem to believe in professional development. Many of the teachers behave as if they have nothing new to learn. I was wondering if anyone out there is experiencing the same problems in their district? Does anyone have any advice or know of any solutions? Frankly, it is becoming more and more difficult to work in this type of environment. -Jen

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8th Grade Social Studies teacher & Dept. Chair, AVID Coordinator

Start with a common strategy...

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Jen I am the History-Social Studies Department chair at my middle school in Southern California. My suggestion is to find a commona strategy to act as a focus for a year. In my work as a consultant I have found academic vocabulary, levels of questions, and a common apporach to note taking good starting points. I would suggest teachers work together to identify strengths and needs for their grade level(s)as a way to gain consensus on a focus area and 1-3 strategies to address that area. This will give a focus to meetings that can include discussion, looking at student work, and professional readings that result in shared success. This is just an outline of an approach that has worked well with the schools I am involved with.

7/8th Grade Social Studies Teacher in Maine

Start Small

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At my school, we have time once a week scheduled by administration to meet as a team so that we can talk about students and collaborate. We are a small school, so it's easy for all 3 of the six, seventh, or eighth grade teachers to have a common planning time.

In your case, I would say your best bet is to start small. Find one teacher you feel comfortable with, and go to them when you have a question. If they have the same students as you, ask them about their strategies for working with that student. Once you are comfortable, ask another teacher if they could join you to "offer their opinion" because you know "they are a real expert on the topic" (don't discount the power of flattery). Lead by example, and with any luck you will see others wanting to emulate what all the "cool kids" are doing!

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