Teacher Talk: Collaborating Across the Planes
Scientists repeat their experiments. But they don't just repeat their own experiments. They often repeat each other's as well. Repeating experiments reduces the potential for errors, what scientists call, "verification." It confirms the findings of the original study when another scientist can observe the same phenomenon, what scientists call, "peer review." It allows scientists to better design experiments or simplify their methods and to identify which factors carry the most influence.
We know, as scientist-teachers, not to make grand conclusions about a child's development based on a single observation. Instead, we observe across contexts and time to be able to develop a rich, nuanced understanding of what the child needs next. We know, too, to collaborate with other teachers in our classrooms or in other, same-level classrooms, to see what they'd do and how'd they'd respond to the development of the children we have observed.
Expand the pool of scientist-teachers with whom you collaborate. You may find an even richer understanding of the nature of your work and the development of the children you serve. Ask teachers who work with children at the same end of their Plane of Development to observe children in your classroom or to observe your teaching. We know that the first three years of each plane are marked by the construction of new ideas and new identities, and the second three years marked by the consolidation and refinement of those themes. An Early Childhood teacher, then, can offer a similar focus but expanded expertise to an Upper Elementary teacher, and vice versa. A Toddler teacher can collaborate well with a Middle School Montessori teacher. Teachers at the same constructive or consolidation trajectory can help to affirm your observations or expand upon them.
Likewise, having the perspective of teachers who work primarily with children at the opposite end of your professional plane can offer divergent observations that raise new questions or help you to see your classroom in a different light. They may notice the parts of the child's development to which you have grown accustomed. They may see what the child may have overlooked in a previous plane or what they have yet to master before moving on. They have a stronger sense of where the child has come from or where the child is going, and they can help to situate your observations within a longer spectrum of growth and development.
Inviting teachers from across multiple settings enriches your understanding of the children you serve. It strengthens your capacity to serve them and it creates a space for you to be vulnerable with other teachers. It helps to build ties across your faculty and to create an authentic society by cohesion among the adults in your school. Ultimately, it helps to verify the conclusions you've drawn about what the children in your classroom need and, in doing so, to better align the lessons you provide to the development they are meant to serve. And it helps you to feel a little less lonely, a little more human, a little more connected in the meantime. Just remember to offer the same support back to the teachers you ask to observe you-- they deserve it just as much as you do. We all do.