Collaboration At Work

Schools get graded. Teachers get anxious. Parents get upset. Administrators get pressured.

With all the new pressures, how can teachers maintain a balance and meet expectations?

Ask the teachers at two Eau Claire, Wisconsin schools and they will tell you to collaborate.


A recent article outlined the problems encountered by the schools and how the teachers came together  with administrators and the community to make positive changes.

After two years of poor state evaluations, Lakeshore School had to make some changes.

Principal Colleen Miner said the staff chose to collaborate rather than complain.

She spoke of the teachers and support staff buying “in to the drive to do whatever it took to help students achieve at a higher level.”

Math coach, Marti Hardy, echoed this mindset.

“The teachers were really eager to try anything new,” [he] said. “We started collaborating more in all subject areas, but particularly in math. The teachers have been very willing to share their expertise with each other.”

Miner described the benefits of a collaborative environment to Lakeshore school included:

  • an increased focus on student learning,
  • a strengthening of internal leadership,
  • expanded parental involvement, and
  • greater community engagement

Similarly, Sam Davey Elementary School, as of Eau Claire Schools, achieved a significant increase in achievement through the use of collaborative efforts.

The article reported, “We have excellent staff, excellent students and excellent families,” principal William Giese said, crediting the “community of learning” the school has fostered among those stakeholders for the progress.

It was, according to Giese, the “new emphasis on collaboration among staff and family engagement” that led to the schools recent success.

So how can a school collaborate?

How does collaboration start?

According to @HerminiaIbarra and @MortenTHansen, “connectors are critical facilitators of collaboration”.

A collaborative leader generates the necessary momentum to gets things moving and the required supports to use inertia to its greatest advantage.

In the Harvard Business Review article, “Are You a Collaborative leader?

Ibarra and Hansen describe four skill areas commonly associated with a collaborative leader:

  1. They play the role of the connector.
  2. They attract diverse talent.
  3. They model collaboration.
  4. They show a strong hand to keep teams aligned.

Who fits the bill in your grade-level team? Your school? Within your district?


Why Good Teachers Quit by Kay Bisaillon, Teacher

In this article, Bisaillon paints an all-to-common portrait of an educator who consistently and effectively meets the emotional, social, and academic needs of her students, yet has few of her own needs met.

Bisailon writes of her friend, “She is losing faith that she is and can make a difference.”

This 20 year veteran is not being supported properly.

As a result, she doubts her ability to impact student learning.

I have not seen this teacher at work.

It may be that she needs to engage:
1) in professional learning (academic need),
2) go out for a drink every payday Friday with the team (social connectivity), or
3) work with an instructional coach (emotional support).

Either way, proficient or deficient, this teacher needs support.

Bisaillon outlines 7 areas of frustration and the resulting impact on the veteran teacher.

1. She’s Not Given Time to Adjust to the Newest Teaching Styles

“She left that discussion with her administration feeling inadequate, deflated and disrespected.”

2. She’s Swimming in Work at Home and At School

“She feels as if she is losing ground each day and trying to make it up the next.”

3. She’s Struggling to Learn Each New Program Introduced

“This time comes from her personal life. She will eventually learn it and get comfortable with it all, but it does come at an expense.”

4. She Does Not Feel Valued

“She is exhausted by the demands of her time and energy and doesn’t know how much more she has to give.”

5. Her Family (and husband) Misses Her

“Her grown children are worried because their mother is working all the time.”

6. Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork

“She is frustrated and overwhelmed by it.”

7.The Counter-Balance

“She will continue focusing on [the students’ needs] until all of the other ones become too much for her to handle.”

It is important to note that every area of frustration leads to an emotional or social impact.

Richmond, Virginia had teachers leaving school in the middle of the year due to ever increasing frustrations.

A local news station did an expose on the matter.

Read the article.

Engage in the comments.

Provide support.

Advocate for yourself.

Let’s balance the scales of pressure and support for ourselves and one another.

What about you, the teacher?

Students get all the attention. Their needs are assessed.
They have curriculum designed to meet their individual needs.
They get differentiated instruction from well-trained educators.
They have a right to a school years’ worth of growth.
So . . . , how about you, the teacher?
Who pays attention to you each day?
Has anyone deliberately assessed your needs or interests?
Have professional development initiatives been designed with you specific needs in mind?
Have you ever received direct, individualized instruction from a trained educator?
Good teachers abound, but are good teachers getting an opportunity to become better?

How have you been supported by others in your school?

Share your responses.

Read one another’s posts.

Look for ways to help new members of your grade-level team.

Provide supportPromote excellencePrepare teachers for success.

Just Being There

I ran all three miles this morning. My pace, breathing, and attention span were as inconsistent as a three-legged frog crossing a freeway. I’ve always been capable of completing three miles, physically, that is. On most occasions it’s the emotional stamina that fades, wanes, and all-together disappears.
Today I finished because my wife joined me. She provided me with accountability ’cause I didn’t want quit on her. She also encouraged me by being there with me.
We all have a better chance at achieving our goals when accompanied by a balance of pressure and support.

Transition by the Numbers

I’ve taught every grade from first to sixth, in 7 schools, 4 districts, 2 states and 1 U.S. territory.

I have made the transition to a new grade 8 times in 19 years.

I was provided specific training and support for only 1 of those moves.

Because of that 1 year of professional guidance, 14 years ago, I am now writing this blog.

It taught me the importance of a mentor, all-staff collegiality, and unity among a grade-level team.

How have you been supported in your transitions?

Share your responses.

Read one another’s posts.

Look for ways to help new members of your grade-level team.

Provide support. Promote excellence. Prepare teachers for success.

A Transfer’s Perspective

This post was submitted to a Discussion Board for  Primary Grades.

It is an example of the anxieties that experienced teachers feel when they are placed in a new teaching environment.

You can read of the assumptions the transferring teacher makes about the principal’s motivation for the new grade-level assignment.

You can sense the fear of change in the bitter accusations about the principal’s leadership style.

The teacher-in-transition brings awareness to the financial impact of moving to a new grade-level, the cost of a classroom library.

 HELP! Don’t want to change teaching assignments!

“I have only taught in the primary grades during my whole career and I love this age group. I teach in a very low income community.

With education changing in my state, we no longer have any seniority. ( My principal is younger, and thinks I am “old school”.

She doesn’t back up the teachers when it comes to problems with parents and only worries about pleasing the parents so they won’t withdraw their kids. )

I now have been told I will have to teach sixth grade next year!!! NOT HAPPY WITH THIS PLAN. I will be retiring in a few years and don’t want to start over!

I have invested ALOT of money and time in the grade I teach.”

– Posted by Proteacher Member intoit33 @

How does your school address these type of concerns?

Share your responses.

Read one another’s posts.

Look for ways to help new members of your grade-level team.

Provide supportPromote excellencePrepare teachers for success.


Induction Effectiveness?

I am interested in the impact of new employees first day/week/month on long-term effectiveness of the employee within the hiring organization.

Can effective induction be correlated to the bottom-line in for-profit environments?

How does the induction process influence the retention of employees in non-profit institutions?

Does it have any influence on improved or decreased levels of service to clients?

Can a poor beginning be overcome?

Is there a point of no return with employee morale if the induction process is initially non-existent or ineffective?

How do we decide, collectively, on the criteria for an effective onboarding experience?

Does it vary by industry or do maxims exist that speak directly to issues of relationship exempt form industry differences?

Hmm . . .

How has the induction process functioned in your school?

Share your responses.

Read one another’s posts.

Look for ways to help new members of your grade-level team.

Provide supportPromote excellencePrepare teachers for success.