There are few jobs as collaborative and team-focused as teaching. It seems that sharing is an integral part of the DNA structure of most teachers, except for the odd, “that resource is mine” type, but there are mutations in every species.
In our office, there are frequent outbursts of “I’ve got 7 whatever next — what am I going to do with them?” Within seconds, there are offers to join classes, worksheets proffered and a mention of an activity that kept another year 7 class happily occupied for a lesson. I’ve noticed that I have lots of ideas to suggest for other people and classes — particularly, it seems, for subjects that I do not teach — and wonder if this could become a job in its own right…
“Good morning, Carol. What seems to be the problem?”
“I’ve got a year 9 Woodwork class and I have no idea what to do with them.”
“Why don’t you get them to draw designs for a bird feeder that we can install at the retirement village across the road?”
“Thank you, Christina! I can’t believe you’ve never taught Woodwork or worked with tools before!”
“Well, I may not have taught Woodwork, but I have certainly worked with tools!”
Cue the hysterical laughter.
Yes, this should most definitely be a job in its own right. A job so important that you never actually teach a class yourself, you just share you amazing ideas with others. You can’t have any of your own classes, because the expectation would then be that you were always doing amazing things in your own classes, but the power only works when you do it as a favour for others.
I am always shocked by those who guard their lesson plans and units of work as if it holds the key to a magical kingdom or a free holiday in a tropical location. Because, in teaching, what goes around comes around. No matter how organised or brilliant you are, there is still a chance that, at some point, you will be caught out and need the help of your colleagues to get you through. This is when it pays to have built up a strong emotional bank balance with your team.
The team I work with is so close that we have been known to deliver coffee in class to individuals who are feeling overwhelmed, cover each other’s classes to give them some time out and team teach, because there are some days when just having another adult in the room can make all the difference.
Indeed, the smartest thing you can do as a teacher is to share your resources and time with your colleagues. The only exception to this rule is those who keep their units of work under lock and key and have their name at the bottom of every worksheet they have ever put together.
These people don’t work well in groups and have clearly missed out on important teacher DNA. Or maybe, they are just tools.
Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian.