Teaching together

Interdisciplinary collaboration promotes growth for teachers, students

As students trudge through the hallways, the amount of energy, thought, and creativity teachers put into classes is often forgotten. Not only do they have to narrow down textbooks, reading material, units, and assignments for multiple courses, but it is an expectation for teachers to collaborate and improve their classes, whether it be through Google Docs, regular meetings, or full summer days of debate and compromise.

Teachers within the same department work to bring cohesiveness to their courses and use their colleagues to better their lessons. Kjirsten Walt, who teaches Introductory Biology, Advanced Biology ñ Genetics, and Advanced Chemistry: Science of Foods, says of the 9th-grade Biology team: ìweíre doing a lot of collaborative work to make sure that everyone has their voice and their specialty heard…and thatís what makes our team dynamic and powerful.î

Teachers also collaborate across departments to emphasize the similarities between various classes. Susan Kreisle, who teaches Algebra II, Honors Pre-Calculus, and AP Calculus BC, says she coordinates lesson plans with teachers from the science department ìso students might have more of that ëAhaí moment, where students go from math class to science class and weíre talking about the same thing.

Even choosing course materials requires more than selecting books as many textbooksí curriculums are determined on the needs of large public schools, so teachers must widdle down this information into a year or semester-long course that will benefit their students the most, fit requirements and relate to other courses. Walt says ìwe have to decide whatís most important.

 Maggie Pierson, who teaches Modern World History, Moral Issues, and A.P U.S. History, describes the weekly, sometimes even daily, meetings to ìshare resources, ideas, that kind of thing. However, she admits that there could be more collaboration: ìIf there was, like, endless hours in a day, I would love it if all the social studies teachers in the department could just sit around every afternoon and talk about cool history stuff so we could all have the best lessons we could.Walt adds ìThere could be a lot more, but the day, and everyoneís varying schedules, don’t necessarily allow that but we’ve actually been very deliberate about making sure that things that can be talked about across departments are.”