The Strength of Collaboration
Promoting Teacher Ownership
Encouraging teachers to share their successes is one way for schools and districts to promote teacher ownership of the curriculum. Sharing can be done within the school through mentoring new teachers or through shared planning times with other teachers, through district newsletters, through online discussion groups, or by volunteering to speak at local or state meetings. Networking, going to professional meetings, and joining mathematics teachers' association are all ways to continue to grow in mathematical knowledge and in pedagogical strategies.
Often overlooked is the problem of teacher turnover that occurs in virtually all middle schools. It is critical to develop a plan to provide professional development for new hires. It is equally important, and not simple, to develop collaborative relationships with experienced mathematics teachers. Such relationships are mutually beneficial to the new and experienced teachers, and in many instances result in lowering the rate of attrition of new teachers.
As teachers become comfortable with CMP, it becomes a natural part of the fabric of the school. A sense of complacency, a "We've done it!" feeling, sets in. This is a time for taking a more exacting look at the potential of the curriculum. These more advanced professional development experiences can re-energize teachers and result in improved student learning. Moving to this next level of implementation is a crucial step and one that is very often overlooked. Professional development is not a one-time nor a brief experience, but the essence of having teachers staying fresh, enthusiastic, and highly effective.
It is through collaboration that progress is made and continued. It is through these collaborative professional exchanges of sharing ideas, planning, examining student work, looking for gaps, and finding ways to make even bigger gains in student understanding, reasoning, and communication that we continue to move forward. In the early stages of implementation, the community may include the entire staff of mathematics teachers, but as implementation continues, it is likely that teachers will rely heavily on their grade-level colleagues for support, ideas, and guidance. Professional development opportunities are needed to ensure that these collaborations are able to continue throughout the implementation, even after the curriculum appears to be institutionalized at the school.
Some issues that collaboration might focus on are: student understanding, perceived weaknesses as evidenced on local and state testing, teacher strategies, reports from teachers who have attended state or national conferences, preparing presentations for administrators or parents or state or national meetings, effective use of technology.
Curriculum by itself is not enough, but a good curriculum in the hands of a good teacher, with support of the administration, the local community, and long-term professional development, can provide the kinds of mathematical experiences that support higher levels of mathematical performance for all students.