Finding Time for Collaboration

presented by Marilyn Friend at the 1995 R/CT Symposium

Most professionals express concern about the time needed to form collaborative working relationships with their colleagues. They also worry about setting realistic expectations regarding collaboration. Although there is no secret way to add more minutes to the day, these are some of the ways professionals are making the most of the time they do have available:

1. Have two classes team to release one teacher (e.g., two fourth grades, a third grade and a fifth grade).

2. Use other adults to help cover classes -- including principals, assistant principals, counselors, social workers, volunteers, psychologists, and supervisors. Of course, be sure to follow local policies on who can supervise groups of children.

3. Find funds for substitute teachers -- some sources include grants from your state or local foundations, parent-teacher organizations, and disability advocacy groups.

4. Find "volunteer" substitutes -- retired teachers, members of social or civic organizations, teacher trainees from local universities.

5. Use instructionally relevant videotapes or other programs supervised by part of the staff to release the other part of the staff for planning.

6. When school-based staff development sessions are scheduled, arrange for them to begin late or end early with the saved time being used for collaboration.

7. Experiment with a late arrival or early dismissal day. This time can occur once per week, once per month, or once per grading period. Typically, the school day is lengthened and the additional minutes are "banked" to provide release time. The time thus created must be used in working with colleagues. It is not individual preparation time, nor is it time to be spent on large-group, formal meetings.

8. Stay late after school once per month, but make it enjoyable by bringing snacks, flowers, music, or other pleasant "atmosphere" items. If you bring walking shoes, you can accomplish both exercise and collaboration!

9. Treat collaboration as the equivalent of school committee responsibilities, especially if you are operating a pilot program. Time that others in school spend in committee meetings is spent working collaboratively.

10. In elementary sshools, divide labor for instruction to save time.

11. Reduce other work to have time to meet -- for example, have students correct each others' work or create self-correcting materials.

12. For special eductors, reserve time in the daily schedule that is not obligated to specific responsibilities. Use this time flexibly with lunch, planning, and other time to meet with teachers.

Reprinted with permission, The Collaborator, a publication of the William and Mary Resource Collaborating Teacher M.Ed. Program at the College of William and Mary, Vol. 5, (1), Winter/Spring 1996.