Delaware is famously known for the five C’s: car manufacturing, chickens, chemicals, the Chancery Court, and credit cards. Six C’s if you include Punkin Chunkin. But in the future, I hope Delaware will be known for another “C,” collaboration.
Ironically, despite the “small town” feel of Delaware, I have had limited opportunities to collaborate with educators outside of my district. My story is not unique. Few Delaware educators experience meaningful opportunities to collaborate with teachers outside their district, especially with those in different grade levels and academic disciplines. This needs to change.
A genuine need exists for real teacher collaboration in Delaware. Although Professional Learning Communities represent this at the micro level, more collaboration needs to occur at the macro level-between schools, grade levels, and academic disciplines. Fortunately, Schools That Lead has carved out a physical space for teachers to become teacher leaders. As a member of this year’s Teacher Leadership Initiative, I am excited to learn about student surveys and peer observation.
As a high school social studies teacher, it has been incredibly rewarding to share a physical space with a group of like-minded educators. At the end of each session, I leave feeling excited about the possibility of professional development in Delaware. Suddenly, the impossible seemed possible.
By sharing ideas and listening to each other, teaching no longer feels like an isolating experience. An unexpected benefit of our sessions has been the opportunity to learn about best practices being implemented in schools outside my district. For example, I learned how peer observations are already being used to personalize professional development for teachers in other neighboring districts. In fact, their positive experiences encouraged me to engage in my first peer observation at my own school. Last week, another colleague observed me teaching a lesson about the cultural diffusion of hip hop. For the first time in eight years, I opened up my classroom to a non-administrator. I look forward to receiving his feedback and most importantly, learning how I can improve student engagement in my Advanced Placement human geography class.
Delaware’s small size can serve as a perfect breeding ground for innovation in education. But in order for great professional development to become a reality for every teacher in Delaware, all education stakeholders must collaborate in a meaningful way, including educators. By offering educators more opportunities to physically and virtually interact across district lines, innovative ideas and best practices can be shared and then implemented throughout the state. Realistically, ideas can be scaled from the micro to the macro level to impact a larger student audience. Undoubtedly, Delaware educators can play a critical role in improving student achievement by creating more opportunities for meaningful professional development.
Melissa Blair Tracy
2014 Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow
National Board Certified Teacher
9th-12th Social Studies
Conrad Schools of Science