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Hannah Deutsch SPED 426 April 10, 2013 Improving Collaborative Teams As a first year teacher, in order to improve collaboration

with my colleagues, I will use many strategies that we discussed in class. First, in order to collaborate effectively, I will make sure my collaborators and myself have specific time set aside each week that is solely for collaborative purposes. When starting a collaborative relationship at the beginning of the school year, I will make sure that activities are planned so that team members are able to learn more about each other’s teaching styles. I feel like this is an important step in the collaborative process because teachers need to know how to best collaborate with their co-workers, both in the classroom and in a meeting. Pugach (2004) stated, “When first engaging in collaborative dialogue, the communicators should avoid getting too specific too soon.” This is a rule of thumb I want to stick to so that my colleagues and I can create an open forum for communication, while still remaining professional, so that our collaboration is completely based on parity. If I am collaborating with a team member who is also my co-teacher, I think it is very important to communicate on what the goals of the collaborative relationship are right from the beginning. These goals could be about what kinds of outcomes the teachers would like for their students, or even what kinds of professional growth they would like to make during their

collaboration. This is very important so that each teacher knows his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and to know how they will best be working together. Coming up with lesson plans together is a very integral step of the collaboration process of co-teaching, so that the educational outcomes for their students are kept in mind. Keeping both teachers involved being completely honest and supportive of each other’s teaching habits is a big part of the collaborative process. Active listening plays a major component to any collaboration that occurs in a team meeting or in the classroom, so that the outcome of the collaborative process is always successful. There are many skills that contribute to active listening, such as reflecting on what has been said and making sure that all team members are clear about the goals of the team meeting. As a first year teacher, I will make sure that all of my team members clearly understand the goals of the collaborative process and all of the components of teaching and learning that go along with being a part of a special education classroom. My paraprofessionals will be informed on many of the educational decisions, as well as the parents and related service members that are a part of my team. It is important to me that I also practice active listening skills so that I know what is going on with my students when they are not in my classroom. This way, I can be clearly informed on the best practices for each individual student. Although it is somewhat uncomfortable to address conflicts that may come up with team members, it is an imperative step in the collaborative

process because team members need to be able to collaborate effectively. The ways in which I will try to address issues or barriers within my collaborative team is through either negotiation or mediation. I will use negotiation in order to make informed decisions about collaboration, so that all sides of the issues meet at a middle, or compromise on the issue. As Friend & Cook (2013) address, “Focus on issues, not people, whenever you experience conflict…issues that have the potential to be agreed on.” This is an important principle to follow when in negotiations, so that fellow team members do not feel like they are being attacked. In my practices, I will use negotiation for both trivial matters on a day-to-day basis, as well as making larger educational decisions that related directly to my students’ needs. Mediation will be another way that I will address issues that come up among team members, because it involves using a third party that is separate from the issue at hand in order to make informed decisions. Mediation is more formal than negotiation because there are more people involved. Therefore, when I address issues through mediation, I will prepare myself in order to see the different perspectives of team members. Through this process, we will be able to make an informed decision about how to overcome this barrier that the team has encountered. If I am part of the conflict and need a mediator, I will be sure to prepare myself and what perspective I have in order to clearly present my side of the issue. Preparation is important so that I am consistently advocating for the

educational rights of my students, while staying professional and collaborating with the team. In order to evaluate the success of my relationships with my colleagues, it will be important to reflect on the process in which collaboration occurred. When assessing professional collaboration in schools, teachers need to look at how they are collaborating through reflection in order to understand the strengths and weaknesses, both as individuals and as a team. Using the rubric outlined in Gable et al. (2004), the parameters in which team members evaluate their collaboration is through collaborative intensity, collaborative processes, collaborative outcomes, and what changes are needed. In each of these parameters, the areas that are evaluated are split up into their respective phases. Phase one, or the informal collaboration phase, is evaluated by informal remediation and referral to team. Assessment procedures, planning, implementation, and the outcomes of those three prior areas evaluate phase two, or the formal collaboration phase. Phase three is when collaborators reflect on the outcomes of their collaboration, and this is evaluated by if the team reflected properly, and if they reoriented their process. As a future teacher and collaborator, I think that this framework for evaluating the collaborative process is one that I may use, but not very closely. I believe that although it is imperative to evaluate the outcomes of every collaborative process, this rubric would become arduous and repetitive for all team members to complete after each team meeting. Because a key

component to collaboration is parity among all team members, one activity to evaluate the success of the relationships as a team would to have a professional development or team building activity. These types of activities are ways that the entire team can collaborate in a way that is separate from the educational needs of students. In any way, when working with students with special needs and working on a team to collaborate for those students’ needs, a special education teacher needs to keep in mind how all team members come together to challenge that student. Sometimes, each team member may get caught up in his or her own outcomes for individual students; however, it is important for the entire team to come together to achieve those goals. By building collaborative teams that are very supportive and addressing issues and barriers in professional and mutually advantageous ways, I will make sure that I maintain collaborative relationships that benefit my students and their educational outcomes.