In just over a week, my LTO (long term occasional teaching) teaching assignment will be over, I will say good bye to my lovely Grade 1 students and surrender myself to new students and the world of unpredictable daily occasional teaching once again. Leaving a classroom, just like starting up a classroom, is a process that requires planning, communication, organization, and it is a process that is seriously benefitted by collaboration.
In my school year start-up planning, I was mindful of the kind of student-information that I would need to have on-hand to transfer over to the returning teacher. In my planning I made sure that information on students, timetables, assessments and the like were all clear, concise and put together in such a way that anyone could make sense of the information. I started this when I created learner background forms back in September (with parent information, information on allergies, caregivers etc.), which were placed in a divided binder where the students’ progress report, report card, IEP’s and parent communication records would later be added). This process of having to later transfer student information was also in mind when I created student files with examples of student work and diagnostic testing for an informative ‘at a glance’ of each student, that could easily be passed on to a new teacher.
In the month leading up to the ‘transfer’, I took inventory of the classroom supplies that the new teacher would need for the upcoming months and made sure to place my order so that the class was short on things that might come in handy (fresh glue, markers, erasers, pencils). I also made sure not to over-order knowing that the teacher might want to order supplies in June for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year. I made sure to return books to the library and return any borrowed resources to other teachers in the school. As a child I was always told to ‘leave a place in the same, or better, state as which you found it’, good advice for any teacher, whether they are changing classrooms, leaving from a leave, leaving after a day of supply teaching or leaving a long term occasional assignment.
I have also been in touch with the returning teacher, and we plan to meet next week, when she will observe the classroom routines, meet the students and we will also have a chance to go over some of the planning and she will get a sense of where I will be leaving off. I have also emailed her my day-plans template, week at a glance timetable and class list, so that she does not have to re-invent the wheel, and so that she can focus on other priorities such as getting to know her new class. She also knows that she can contact me with questions once she returns to work.
I know that a lot of what I am doing isn’t actually required of long-term occasional teachers, or of contract teachers who are going on leave, but I believe that teamwork and collaboration are positive and essential practices for any teacher. We teachers are not required to meet, or to share our personal ‘creations’, to share our units, resources, ideas, or hand over our ‘intellectual property’, but we put so much of ourselves into our work to benefit our students, why wouldn’t we share if someone could add to it and make it better? Why wouldn’t we divide the labour so that more attention can be given to an area that needs it? Or Why wouldn’t we lean on one another and be a team so that we restore ourselves from time to time and take turns leading the charge?
I have been in teaching situations where I was given little, or any information on how to program my classroom, which resources to use, how to order supplies, establish systems or routines (teaching under these circumstances can be quite challenging, a trial-by-fire learning experience that is never forgotten), and I have also been in teaching situations where harmonious team work, sharing and planning was the norm (which had an even more positive impact on my experiences as a teacher, my learning and on the kind of things the students and I were able to accomplish in the classroom). Perpetuating a practice that supports teachers, inexperienced and experienced, that allows them to succeed and in turn assist the students succeeded is just another reason why we teachers should do our best to help each other out. Whether we are moving classrooms, going on leave, leaving an LTO behind, or leaving a classroom after supply teaching for a day, I hope this post helps us all be a little more mindful of other ways we can be more positively collaborative and communicative with our colleagues.