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Building Collegial Relationships

The first stage of our peer coaching cycle was to build collegial relationships. In order to do so, we created group norms for how we would work together and interact in order to provide a safe, supportive and nurturing environment that would allow teachers and coaches to take risks and really reflect on their practice.

Determining our Needs

“So often teachers work in isolation; to be able to collaborate with colleagues helps me refine my practice and reflect deeply on the art of teaching.  It also affords me an opportunity to continue to participate in research that is action based, which extends my desire to always improve upon what I am doing, understand the reasons behind what I am doing, and sustain teaching as an authentic process for me, my colleagues and my students.  We continue to be educators – educated – and challenged to be aware.”

The diversity of our families, teachers, and staff enhances and enriches the learning environment, provides opportunities for children's growth, and helps us conduct research to develop curricula. We continually seek ways to build connections among the members of our community so that we can advance what we know and experience regarding diversity and inclusiveness at our school and in the world around us.

When we began this grant, we did not have a system in place for engaging in a collaborative process of examining our instructional practice, managing the various expectations of stakeholders and institutional traditions, and analyzing classroom data to enhance curricula and pedagogy. Our team originally came together as a result of informal conversations about the role and responsibilities of a demonstration teacher. Invariably, our conversations would conclude with a desire to devise a way get into each others' classrooms to observe and coach each other in supportive and reflective ways. We also repeatedly noted a need for support in our efforts to take a critical stance toward social justice issues that arose in the curriculum and in the day-to-day experiences in the classroom. This document includes reasons CCRSJ members gave for creating and joining this project.


Group Interaction Norms

Creating guidelines "norms" for groups behavior makes collaboration and meetings more effective. The members of every team and work group develop particular ways of interacting with each other over time. Effective interpersonal communication among group members is a critical components of group functioning. How a group make decisions, assign work, and holds people accountable determines team success. 


Tools for Building Collegial Relationships

Establishing Group norms adapted from Joan Richardson

The Basics of Effective Teamwork by Anne Conzemus


The Synergy of a Strong Collegial Bond

Here is a short video that gives a glimpse into the safe space we've created to work together and the insights we gain from each other.


The Impact of Creating Collegial Relationships

From the time that we met as a team to solidify our ideas as we wrote our TIIP grant, my expectations for my growth as an educator and teacher leader were twofold. TIIP funds allowed my team the time and resources to investigate peer-coaching models, then plan and implement coaching cycles to support one another as we attempted to transform our approach to addressing social justice issues in the classroom. Although I previously had mentored and supported pre-service teachers and I have collaborated with colleagues in lesson planning and other instructional activities, this was my first foray into peer-coaching. Through this experience, I was able to learn alongside my peers as we tailored our professional development to meet our needs. I benefited from the opportunities that I had to coach others as well as being coached.

Even though I am no longer teaching at the same site as my original TIIP team, I have been able to take my understanding of how to create collegial relationships that lead to collaboration and support among a group of educators interested in trying something new to my current position as a Reading Specialist. At my new site, as small group of teachers are taking baby steps toward coaching one another as a small group of teachers take on the restructuring of their reading and language arts instruction. With my help, the teachers have begun to video-tape lessons and I have provided demonstration lessons.

Secondly, and most profoundly, I sought to investigate my understanding of what it means to be a social justice educator. I wanted to find ways to move beyond my current practice of recognizing teachable moments to address issues of equity, access, and power and instead to become more purposeful in selecting literature, and creating opportunities to explore these issues in the classroom. For me, this remains a work in progress—I suppose I’ve come to the realization that like most any worthwhile pursuit, it is a life-long journey.


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