One of the greatest challenges of teaching is the isolation. Many of us do better if we have the chance to talk to other professionals. I would assume that most schools (if not all) have some sort of formal process for brainstorming about students. Our school has a Student Support Committee that meets monthly and a Local Screening Committee that meets weekly. These teams work with teachers to find strategies for helping students. These are wonderful committees that can be quite useful.
However, sometimes we need help more quickly or from other individuals. I spent my lunch recently meeting with two other teachers. One of them, a Reading Recovery teacher, has a student that she is quite concerned about. She asked the other two of us to sit down with her and brainstorm. Due to the three different schedules, lunch was the only time we all had free anytime soon. So, while we ate lunch she described this first grade boy who is struggling in school. Her greatest concern about him is his lack of ability to persevere. He is unwilling to struggle through things and simply doesn’t try. Just the time spent talking and brainstorming helped her feel better about this. We didn’t solve his problems or find some perfect answer for her, but the collaboration gave her ideas to try, ways to go, and the chance to talk.
Another blogger wrote an analogy comparing education to the tv show house. She wants a team of experts working together to analyze students to try and determine causes for certain behaviors and strategies for improving achievement. After reading this post, a first-year teacher at my school sent out an email asking for such a ‘team of experts’ to help her. That afternoon five of us got together and listened to her concerns, asked her questions, and thought of new ways to help this student and teacher. Again, no big solution, but a lot of options and a chance to think aloud.
My school has a lot of students who face a wide range of challenges in their lives; poverty, families in turmoil, moving frequently, learning English, adapting to a new culture, and more. These students are working hard, are bright, and have a lot to offer. We, as a school and community, have a responsibility to work as hard for them as they are for themselves. It’s not something we can do alone. Collaboration, discussion, and debate all help us continue to find new ways to help our students.