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  • Writer's pictureBrian Karsten

A Team Approach: Sharing Teaching Responsibilities Leads to Student Achievement

I am one of four teachers in my building with ninth grade Speech and Composition on my teaching schedule. As a team, we’ve set learning targets and worked on scope and sequence planning together. This isn’t uncommon—a group of teachers working together to plan the course and prepare ahead of time (sometimes only a day ahead of time!) so all students get a similar experience and common assessments.

But too often, that’s where the sharing ends. Why?

When I finish grading my first writing assignment of the year, there’s a good chance I’ll have a few students that struggle with focus, a few more than have a lack of evidence, and a few more that have all the pieces, but don’t have a clue how to format things. (And, of course, a few that have all three issues.) And guess what—my colleague next door has a similar ratio! So rather than trying to intervene on 3-4 different issues with 3-4 different re-teaching strategies over 3-4 different days, doesn’t it make sense for the collaboration we demonstrated in planning the lessons to continue in intervention?

Of course it does! We can mix and match our rosters during scheduled intervention times (Focus Periods, Flex Periods, WIN Time, etc.) to best suit individual student needs and ensure all of them are learning at a high level. And this team approach not only distributes the workload, but it also brings forth a multitude of benefits for all students involved. Let’s take a closer look at why sharing teaching responsibilities leads to student achievement and how this collaborative practice enhances the educational experience.

1. Enhanced Instructional Expertise: When teachers share responsibilities, they bring unique strengths and expertise to the table. Each educator has a distinct set of skills, experiences, and knowledge that can be tapped into for the benefit of all students. By pooling their instructional expertise, teachers can offer a broader range of teaching strategies, methods, and perspectives. This diversity in instructional approaches caters to different learning styles, ensuring students receive intervention that meets their individual needs. For example, I might be amazing at brainstorming essay topics for students that struggle with idea-generation, whereas my colleague next door might have a lot of success helping students organize their thoughts in the outlining phase. Both of us should use those strengths with the students that need those supports, regardless of whose class roster they've ended up on.

2. Collaborative Learning Communities: Sharing teaching responsibilities fosters the development of collaborative learning communities within schools. Educators who work together to support students develop a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose. This collaborative environment creates a fertile ground for professional growth, as teachers learn from each other and continuously improve. Moreover, collaborative learning communities create a supportive network that can help teachers navigate challenges and collectively work towards student success. So when it comes to my earlier example, not only do my students learn from my colleague and my different strengths, but we also learn from one another.

3. Personalized Support for Students: One of the primary advantages of sharing teaching responsibilities is the personalized support it offers to students. With multiple educators involved, there are more opportunities for one-on-one interactions, small group discussions, and individualized feedback. Students who may require extra attention or have specific learning challenges can benefit greatly from this targeted support. Sharing responsibilities allows teachers to allocate their time effectively, providing tailored guidance and support to every student in the classroom. And this is massively important. Teachers no longer need to balance the intervention needs of their entire roster—they share responsibility. So one day, I may have a full class of students that simply need time to do their work, whereas my next door colleague has a small group of students getting more personalized instruction.

4. Increased Student Engagement: The varied teaching styles, approaches, and perspectives create a rich learning environment that captivates students' attention. Different educators bring their own unique teaching methods, activities, and projects, which adds variety and excitement to the classroom experience. As a result, students become active participants in their own learning, as they encounter diverse teaching techniques that cater to their interests and learning preferences. And this works especially well when you give students choices—something the Focus Period software makes easy.

5. Interdisciplinary Connections: First a confession—our school isn’t here yet. We’d love to be, and hopefully will be, but as of now, much of our shared responsibility is within departments. But the possibilities are immense. Sharing teaching responsibilities opens up opportunities for interdisciplinary connections. When educators from different subject areas collaborate, they can integrate concepts and create meaningful connections across disciplines. This interdisciplinary approach enhances students' understanding of how different subjects relate to one another and promotes critical thinking skills and can provide a more holistic educational experience that encourages students to make connections between different areas of knowledge.

6. Positive Role Modeling: Teachers working collaboratively, respecting each other's ideas, and valuing diverse perspectives: this modeling of teamwork and cooperation serves as an important life lesson for students. Students see educators learning from one another and sharing responsibilities, which inspires them to adopt a growth mindset and embrace lifelong learning. Considering the number of times in a semester we put students into groups and tell them to work together, this is a good way to practice what we preach.

Sharing intervention responsibilities offers numerous benefits that lead to student achievement and a positive educational experience. From enhanced instructional expertise to personalized support, collaborative learning communities, increased student engagement, improved differentiation, and interdisciplinary connections, this team approach revolutionizes the classroom dynamics. By revisiting the school schedule to create time for adopting shared teaching responsibilities, administrators empower their staffs, create inclusive learning environments, and ultimately contribute to the success and well-being of all students. Sharing truly is caring... for our students.

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