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Nearly all students at Louisville's J. Atkinson Academy for Excellence in Teaching and Learning live in poverty. But from to , principal Dewey Hensley showed this needn't stand in the way of their succeeding in school. Under Hensley's watch, students at Atkinson, once one of the lowest performing elementary schools in Kentucky, doubled their proficiency rates in reading, math and writing. Most recently, the school was one of only 17 percent in the school district that met all of its "adequate yearly progress" goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Hensley's is not a tale of lonely-at-the-top heroics, however. Rather, it is a story about leadership that combines a firm belief in each child's potential with an unrelenting focus on improving instruction - and a conviction that principals can't go it alone. From inside out, you have to build the strengths. I'm not the leader. I'm a leader. I've tried to build strong leaders across the board. Today Hensley is chief academic officer of Jefferson County, Ky.

Principals there and elsewhere could learn a lot from how he led Atkinson with a style that mirrors in many ways the characteristics of effective school leadership identified in research. Shaping a vision of academic success for all students His first week on the job, Hensley drew a picture of a school on poster board and asked the faculty to annotate it.

Creating a climate hospitable to education School suspensions at Atkinson were among the highest in the state when Hensley took over. Determined to create a more suitable climate for learning, Hensley visited the homes of the 25 most frequent student offenders, telling the families that their children would be protected, but other children would be protected from them, too, if necessary.

Building collegiality to become a better teacher

Hensley brought in teams to diagnose each child's academic and emotional needs and develop individual "prescriptions" that might include anything from home visits to intensive tutoring to eyeglasses. Chess club, a special program for truant students and ballroom dancing lessons culminating in a formal candlelit dinner that included students' parents were other tone-changers, along with school corridors with names like Teamwork Trail and street signs directing students miles to Harvard or 2, miles to Stanford.

Cultivating leadership in others Hensley set up a leadership structure with two notable characteristics. First, it was simple, comprising only three committees: culture, climate, and community; instructional leadership; and student support. Second, it made leadership a shared enterprise. The committees were populated and headed by teachers, with every faculty member assigned to one.

He also encouraged his teachers to learn from one another. Science teacher Heather Lynd recalls the day Hensley visited her classroom and then asked her to lead a faculty meeting on anchor charts, annotated diagrams that can be used to explain everything from the water cycle to punctuation tips. Improving instruction Hensley did a lot of first-hand observation in classrooms, leaving behind detailed notes for teachers, sharing "gold nuggets" of exemplary practices, things to think about and next steps for improvement.

He also introduced cutting-edge professional development, obtaining a grant to set up the ideal classroom in the building, full of technology and instructional resources. And he formed a collaboration with the University of Louisville. In one project, professors observed how Atkinson's teachers kept students engaged and shared the collected data with the faculty in addition to using it for a research study. Hensley also encouraged teachers to do skill building on their own.

As a result, Atkinson teachers began attaining certification at a feverish pace from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a private group that offers teachers an advanced credential based on rigorous standards. Finally, Hensley focused on getting students the instruction that tests and observations showed they needed. For example, Hensley paired struggling 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders with National Board-certified teachers who gave them intensive help in reading and writing until they reached grade level.

Managing people, data and processes Data use figured prominently in Hensley's turnaround efforts. Under photos of each teacher, staff members could view the color-coded trajectory of students' achievement measured on three levels: grade level, below grade level and significantly below. The display was part of what Hensley calls the faculty's "tolerance for truth," honestly examining results and "taking ownership of each student's performance. Such methods did not win plaudits from everyone; half the faculty transferred after his first year. But as time went by, the number of teachers seeking to leave the school declined to a trickle and the list of those seeking to transfer in ballooned.

You're the only one who taught us how. Principals themselves agree almost unanimously on the importance of several specific practices, according to one survey, including keeping track of teachers' professional development needs and monitoring teachers' work in the classroom 83 percent. Moreover, they shift the pattern of the annual evaluation cycle to one of ongoing and informal interactions with teachers. The Minnesota-Toronto study paints a picture of strong and weak instructional leadership. High-scoring principals frequently observed classroom instruction for short periods of time, making 20 to 60 observations a week, and most of the observations were spontaneous.

Their visits enabled them to make formative observations that were clearly about learning and professional growth, coupled with direct and immediate feedback. High-scoring principals believed that every teacher, whether a first-year teacher or a veteran, can learn and grow. Effective leaders view data as a means not only to pinpoint problems but to understand their nature and causes. In contrast, low-scoring principals described a very different approach to observations.

Their informal visits or observations in classrooms were usually not for instructional purposes.

Improving teaching practice

Even informal observations were often planned in advance so that teachers knew when the principal would be stopping by. The most damaging finding became clear in reports from teachers in buildings with low-scoring principals who said they received little or no feedback after informal observations. It is important to note that instructional leadership tends to be much weaker in middle and high schools than in elementary schools. The problem is that those who are in a position to offer instructional leadership - department chairs - often are not called on to do so.

One suggestion is that the department head's job "should be radically redefined" so whoever holds the post is "regarded, institutionally, as a central resource for improving instruction in middle and high schools. As noted above, a central part of being a great leader is cultivating leadership in others. The learning-focused principal is intent on helping teachers improve their practice either directly or with the aid of school leaders like department chairs and other teaching experts.

But their leadership challenges are far from small, or simple. In other words, they have to be good managers. Effective leaders studied by University of Washington researchers nurtured and supported their staffs, while facing the reality that sometimes teachers don't work out. They hired carefully, but - adhering to union and district personnel policies - they also engaged in "aggressively weeding out individuals who did not show the capacity to grow. When it comes to data, effective principals try to draw the most from statistics and evidence, having "learned to ask useful questions" of the information, to display it in ways that tell "compelling stories" and to use it to promote "collaborative inquiry among teachers.

Principals also need to approach their work in a way that will get the job done. Research behind VAL-ED the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education tool to assess principal performance, developed by researchers at Vanderbilt University suggests that there are six key steps - or "processes" - that the effective principal takes when carrying out his or her most important leadership responsibilities: planning, implementing, supporting, advocating, communicating and monitoring. Principals - and the people who hire and replace them - need to be aware that school improvement does not happen overnight.

A rule of thumb is that a principal should be in place about five to seven years in order to have a beneficial impact on a school. In fact, the average length of a principal's stay in 80 schools studied by the Minnesota-Toronto researchers was 3. They further found that higher turnover was associated with lower student performance on reading and math achievement tests, apparently because turnover takes a toll on the overall climate of the school. Effective principals stay put.

The simple fact is that without effective leaders most of the goals of educational improvement will be very difficult to achieve. Absent attention to that reality, we are in danger of undermining the very standards and goals we have set for ourselves. Fortunately, we have a decade of experience and new research demonstrating the critical importance of leadership for school principals and documenting an empirical link between school leadership and student growth.

Still, the lives of too many principals, especially new principals, are characterized by "churn and burn," as the turnover findings bear out. So what can be done to lessen turnover and provide all teachers and students with the highly skilled school leadership they need and deserve? In other words, how do we create a pipeline of leaders who can make a real difference for the better, especially in troubled schools?

A pipeline for effective leadership Wallace's work over the last decade suggests such a pipeline would have four necessary and interlocking parts:. Coordination of state and district efforts Effective school leadership depends on support from district and state officials. Except for the most entrepreneurial, principals are unlikely to proceed with a leadership style focused on learning if the district and state are unsupportive, disinterested or pursuing other agendas.

As one of the major Wallace-funded studies reports, central offices need to be transformed so that the work of teaching and learning improvement can proceed. As for states: Through policy, accreditation and funding for principal training programs, and other levers, they have a major role to play in getting schools the leadership they need. If the states and districts can do the difficult work of coordinating their various efforts, so much the better.

Leadership and the transformation of failing schools Armed with what we've learned about the potential for leadership over the last decade, we have cause for optimism that the education community's long neglect of leadership is at last coming to an end. We still have a lot to learn, but we have already learned a great deal.


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In the face of this growing body of knowledge and experience, it is clear that now is the time to step up efforts to strengthen school leadership. Without effective principals, the national goal we've set of transforming failing schools will be next to impossible to achieve. Linda Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University. One of the nation's leading authorities on education policy as well as teachers and the teaching profession, Darling-Hammond has served on The Wallace Foundation's board of directors since She was interviewed in April by Lucas Held, Wallace's communications director.

These are edited excerpts of the interview. Lucas Held: What do we know about the link between effective teaching and good principals? Linda Darling-Hammond: That comes up in survey after survey. If you ask teachers, "What kept you in a school that you're in? It is possible to be an effective teacher in a poorly led school but it's not easy.

That takes a toll. And it is possible to become an ever more effective and successful teacher in a well-led school. Teachers go into the profession to be successful with kids. If they are working with a leadership team led by a principal who understands what it takes to be successful with kids, how the organization should be organized, what kind of supports need to be there, how learning for teachers can be encouraged as well as learning for students, how to get the community and the parental supports in place, that lets the teacher do her or his job effectively and achieve the most important intrinsic motivation: success with kids.

LDH: You would think it would be obvious. But in schools where there has not been much cultivation of leaders, there is often a hunkering down and just saying, "Well, there's leadership over [t]here and there's teaching over here. LH: How do principals and teachers work together to create a collaborative focus on learning? LDH: In thriving schools you have a professional learning community. If there isn't one, it's something that teachers and leaders have to build together, getting past the closed-door culture which is often inherited in schools: "We're all doing our own thing in our own classroom.

Leaders who are effective often have a distributed leadership approach. The principal functions as a principal teacher who is really focusing on instruction along with [and] by the side of teachers - not top down mandates and edicts. When principals are trying to help create such a culture, [they] begin to open the doors and say, "Let's talk about our practice. Let's show our student work. For example, the study concluded that the content of an exam developed by the Educational Testing Service and used by 35 states includes only a tiny fraction of items that address phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary knowledge—three of the foundational reading skills.

And only four states—California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Tennessee—require a separate reading test for licensing elementary school teachers. The study does not provide details on the nature of these tests. In short, states have very different policies related to teacher preparation in reading. Our commissioned studies also showed considerable variation within regions.

In New York, to obtain a childhood education certificate to teach grades through its traditional route, the state requires a minimum of six credits in language and literacy, which typically translates to roughly two three-credit courses Grossman et al.

In general, the programs required considerably more literacy courses than the state-mandated floor: on average, teacher candidates must take One program requires no credits, while another requires 39; the standard deviation in number of credits is 7. We learned more about the content of these courses through surveys of new teachers that probed what kinds of learning opportunities received the most and least emphasis in their preparation programs. The authors found a great degree of variability in the ways in which these methods courses were taught Smagorinsky and Whiting, Research conducted by the National Center for Research on Teacher Learning at Michigan State University focused in part on opportunities for learning about teaching writing and mathematics to diverse learners at seven teacher preparation programs of different types in the United States.

This descriptive study often called the TELT study, for Teacher Education and Learning to Teach found considerable variation across the programs with respect to subject-specific teaching of writing. However, because these studies used different selection methodologies and asked different questions, we could not develop summative statements from them about the kinds of preparation that prospective teachers receive in the area of literacy.

Our charge was to examine the extent to which teacher education programs draw on converging scientific evidence regarding the teaching of reading. However, we were able to find very little information about teacher education programs in general—except that they vary greatly—so we cannot answer this question well.

The data available regarding the types of instruction and experiences that participants receive in teacher education programs do not provide a sufficient basis for any conclusions about the extent to which teacher preparation programs in reading draw on converging scientific evidence regarding the teaching of reading or other relevant aspects of literacy education. Although our four-question framework had the effect of highlighting the relative dearth of empirical evidence about what teachers should know and how they should be prepared, we did find useful research.


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There is a reasonable body of empirical research concerning the question of what effective readers know and can do, though more information about English-language learners and adolescent readers is needed. There is also empirical evidence about the instructional strategies that help students learn to read, but there is no definitive guidance that points to particular effective strategies. The literature on what teachers need to know is extremely limited, and the empirical evidence on effective teacher preparation nearly nonexistent. We did find considerable conceptual overlap across the four questions, and there have been concerted efforts by experts to provide guidance about both how to teach reading and how to prepare teachers to teach reading given those conceptual connections.

Researchers who have immersed themselves in these questions and expert panels that have sifted through various kinds of evidence have concluded that teachers of reading rely on a sophisticated understanding of the development of literacy, the many factors that influence it, and the array of strategies they can use, along with the capacity to keep collecting evidence as they refine their practice. Box highlights the way in which the foundational skills anchor thinking about each facet of teaching and learning reading by drawing together examples from the discussions of the four questions.

These examples illustrate themes in the research on reading, but they do not offer a detailed picture of the knowledge and skills that would be most important to an individual teacher candidate, nor of how teachers ought to be taught. The work does support logical arguments about the kinds of educational experiences likely to be beneficial; see Appendix B for examples.

The preparation of future reading teachers should be grounded in the best available scientific literature related to literacy teaching and learning. Although there is a voluminous literature on reading, it does not provide. Small-group instruction focused on, e. Explicit instruction in, e. Understanding of the way the five foundational skills are integrated in fluent reading. Strategies for systematic phonics instruction, e. We close the chapter with what we conclude can be drawn from this literature now and the areas in which further investigation is needed.

We found the strongest basis for conclusions about what students need to know and be able to do to be successful readers. Conclusion Successful beginning readers possess a set of foundational skills that enable them not only to continue growing as readers but also to progress in all academic subjects. A variety of instructional approaches that address these foundational skills can be effective when used by teachers who have a grounding in the foundational elements and the theory on which they are based.

The importance of those foundational skills supports conclusions about what is most important in the preparation of teachers of reading:. However, there is currently no clear evidence that such preparation does indeed improve teacher effectiveness or about how such preparation should be carried out. Conclusion There are very few systematic data about the nature of the preparation in reading that prospective teachers receive across the nation. The limited information that exists suggests that the nature of preparation of prospective teachers for reading instruction is widely variable both across and within states.

Conclusion Little is known about the best ways to prepare prospective teachers to teach reading. Systematic data are needed on the nature and content of the coursework and other experiences that constitute teacher preparation in reading. Systematic data would make it possible to monitor and evaluate teacher preparation in reading and to conduct research on the relative effectiveness of different preparation approaches.

The kind of data collection and effectiveness research we envision would be focused in particular on preparation related to the foundational reading skills and the instructional approaches that have been shown to be effective in teaching reading. Examples of the sorts of research that are most needed include. We discuss the need for research more fully in Chapter 9. Teachers make a difference. The success of any plan for improving educational outcomes depends on the teachers who carry it out and thus on the abilities of those attracted to the field and their preparation.

Yet there are many questions about how teachers are being prepared and how they ought to be prepared. Yet, teacher preparation is often treated as an afterthought in discussions of improving the public education system. Preparing Teachers addresses the issue of teacher preparation with specific attention to reading, mathematics, and science. The book evaluates the characteristics of the candidates who enter teacher preparation programs, the sorts of instruction and experiences teacher candidates receive in preparation programs, and the extent that the required instruction and experiences are consistent with converging scientific evidence.

Preparing Teachers also identifies a need for a data collection model to provide valid and reliable information about the content knowledge, pedagogical competence, and effectiveness of graduates from the various kinds of teacher preparation programs. Federal and state policy makers need reliable, outcomes-based information to make sound decisions, and teacher educators need to know how best to contribute to the development of effective teachers.

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Clearer understanding of the content and character of effective teacher preparation is critical to improving it and to ensuring that the same critiques and questions are not being repeated 10 years from now. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

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Get This Book. Visit NAP. Looking for other ways to read this? No thanks. Suggested Citation: "5 Preparing Reading Teachers. Page 76 Share Cite. The next four sections address the four questions presented in Chapter 4 as applied to reading: What are students expected to know and be able to do to be successful readers? What instructional opportunities are necessary to support successful students? What do successful teachers know about reading and how to teach reading? What instructional opportunities are necessary to prepare successful teachers?

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Page 77 Share Cite. Page 78 Share Cite. Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Page 79 Share Cite. National Reading Panel. Page 80 Share Cite. International Reading Association. Page 81 Share Cite. From these summary reports it is clear that there is a consensus among leaders in the field of reading that successful beginning readers possess six foundational skills: oral language as a base for learning, phonemic awareness, a grasp of phonics, fluency, vocabulary knowledge, and comprehension strategies. Adolescent Readers and English-Language Learners.

Page 82 Share Cite. Page 83 Share Cite. Page 84 Share Cite. Page 85 Share Cite. Page 86 Share Cite. Based on professional judgment and on a review of the literature on reading and reading instruction, the IRA concluded that any preparation program for reading teachers should include six elements International Reading Association, : 3 A foundation in research and theory: Teachers must develop a thorough understanding of language and reading development as well as an understanding of learning theory and motivation in order to ground their instructional decision making effectively.

Page 87 Share Cite. In short, reading teachers rely on a broad-based understanding of: the foundational elements of reading and the theory on which they are based; the range of instructional strategies they can use to develop each of these skills in diverse students; and the materials and technological resources they can use to support student learning.

Page 88 Share Cite. Teaching Adolescent Readers. Page 89 Share Cite. Teaching English-Language Learners. Page 90 Share Cite. Preparation for All Teachers.

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Page 91 Share Cite. Page 92 Share Cite. Middle and High School Teachers. Page 93 Share Cite. However, there is a consensus on the skills and knowledge most useful to teachers of reading, which provides the best available guidance for the preparation of teachers of reading: the foundational elements of reading and the theory on which they are based; the range of instructional strategies they can use to develop each of these skills in diverse students; the materials and technological resources they need to support student learning; a clear theoretical understanding of the process of learning to read for English-language learners, strategies for assessing the literacy skills of these students, and the range of available strategies for targeting their needs, as well as resources for additional support; and strategies for helping struggling older readers build foundational skills, foster motivation to read, build vocabulary, and improve comprehension of a variety of information and literary texts.

Page 94 Share Cite. At this time this amount of technology was amazing and we used these tools constantly! For administrative purposes, we had two separate classes 2KM and 2KJ , however, we worked together for every session except for two hours of the week when one class was at a specialist class e. Art, Music, P. Kelly and I planned everything collaboratively. This usually officially began early in the week when we sat down and discussed what our students needed to work on.

During this planning time, we wrote down many of the things we had been discussing informally as we had been observing and working with our students. For example, I might look for some reading activities and Kelly might look for some maths resources. We had three hours per week of specialist classes which also provided time release for teachers. Kelly and I had one of those hours to plan together. The rest of our planning was done before school, online at night, and at lunchtimes.

The planning process never stopped and we were continually teaching, assessing, reflecting, and planning. It was an ongoing and efficient cycle. We begin each day by marking the roll separately with our classes. This was a great way to connect with students and there would always be a daily question or the chance for students to share some news. Kelly and I did most of our whole class teaching together.

Our introductions and explanations bounced off each other and almost seemed scripted at times! Following our whole class explanations, we alternated teaching small groups or individuals separately. Our class blogs were a huge part of our program. In we had two separate blogs, however, we found it much more efficient and effective to have one joint blog in This also had the advantage of cutting down the workload for Kelly and me. Every day we started with 20 minutes of blogging and also worked on the blog at other times during the day.

A day without blogging would be unheard of. Read more about that here. Our blog was a way for our students to improve their literacy skills, collaborate globally, connect with parents, learn about internet safety, work for an authentic audience, and develop the classroom community, among other things. In 2KM and 2KJ, we loved blogging and it opened up the world to our young students. My opinion is that our team teaching was hugely successful.

Most people would agree that in order to continually learn and improve, individuals need to engage in regular reflection. This includes teachers. Team teaching allows for such rich reflection almost every hour of the day and night! When we were not teaching, Kelly and I found ourselves talking non-stop about what our students needed to work on, what ideas we could use, and how our teaching was going.

I think the main reason our team teaching was so successful was our compatibility. Kelly and I chose to embark on our collaborative teaching approach. We had very similar views on discipline, organisation, work ethic, student expectations, teaching philosophies, and even smaller things like noise tolerance and how we liked our classroom to look. Our partnership was harmonious and productive. Obviously, we are not clones of each other and despite many similarities, our personal strengths in different areas also complemented each other.

I believe this helped to provide a rounded education for our students and we learnt from each other. Our students responded extremely well to our team teaching situation. All parents responded positively and said that they felt it had benefited their child. Kelly and I would have loved to be able to teach the same cohort of students for two years and see where we could take them. As Chris Bradbeer said in his post,. Kelly and I are no longer working at the school we were at in when this post was originally written.

Rather than having set classroom spaces, the four classes team up with one other class for a two week period. For each lesson, one teacher will generally take the whole class introduction, while the other teacher will take out a small group for a modified introduction. This might be a group who needs extra support or extension. While the main group then works on their activity, one teacher will rove and assist, while the other teacher takes another small group to work on a specific learning goal.

The class will then come together for reflection sharing. This might be led by the two teachers, or one might set up for the next lesson. Have you been involved in a team teaching situation?

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How did you find it? Do you have any other questions or thoughts on team teaching? These are both suitable for primary and secondary teachers and include a selection of classroom posters. Fill out the form below or simply click here to find the sign-up form in your browser. I love the fact that you acknowledge how hard it is for teachers who are not necessarily compatible to force team-teaching. We have 5 classes left to teach this term and we may end up splitting responsibilities and only teaching half of the class time each.

I know it is pretty common in some schools to throw teachers together and tell them to team teach. This is basically my worst nightmare! But of course you know all that! To tell you the truth, if I was in your position I would probably split responsibilities and teach half the class too. If the project was longer term then it might be worth sitting down and working out your differences but with 5 classes left I guess you just have to look at what approach will benefit the students the most.

I have also worked nearby teachers who I was very different from but learnt a lot from eg. It is hard, we need to model to our students that we are capable of working with a wide range of people, as that is what we expect with them. At the same time if we want to get the best possible outcomes for our students, we need to make the best possible decisions about team teaching arrangements. The students hate it, I hate it and the other teacher thinks she is in charge because she brown-noses to the Principal class.

No wonder standards are dropping across the developed world. Hi Amy, That must be incredibly frustrating for you. I really hope you can work out a solution to get by. Perhaps it would work okay if you could divide up responsibilities. Easier said than done. I know. Good luck! Thanks for your help. Hi Kathleen, Thank you so much for this great post. You have answered many of the questions I had about how a successful teaching team operates.

As you discussed, I believe that the most important elements of team teaching are being highly compatible with your partner. Trust and respect are also key elements — and obviously what you and Kelly share for each other. One question I have is how do you approach report writing? Thanks again, Marie. Thanks for your comment. Yes, trust and respect and crucial.

We do all our formal assessment on our own students to help with our report writing. We share some activities but are really two separate grades. We plan closely together and share the same philosophies about teaching and learning. Team teaching could work for us. Lots of food for thought — thanks again. I really think your students will be benefiting greatly from the teamwork that you and Kelly have going on. I think it is great. A collegue and I have talked about the possibility of teaming up but are a little restricted by the physical layout.

That is an interesting question. There are a only a small number of rooms in our school with the open set-up so Kelly have recently discussed if we think we could keep team teaching in two traditional adjoining rooms. Team teaching this year, its been beneficial for sure for me and the learners. We work well together but also have different teaching and learning styles and I think these different takes on the world give the students perspectives that I alone could not provide. Thanks for sharing your experience. I agree, the students really do get a much larger perspective by having two teachers.

Having been in the situation, I fully agree the most important issue when considering team teaching is compatibility. Each teacher has to be confident in the support of the other. The team also allows individual or small group work while the partner deals with the larger group. I did forgot to write about that really important benefit of having one person being able to take care of the larger group while the other teacher can focus on individuals or groups.

We do this all the time and it really is a huge benefit. Thanks for pointing that out. Having two teachers is also great for those times when you come in after lunch and there are issues to deal with. Teaching individually, sometimes the class had to wait for their lesson while problems were being sorted out. My colleague and I did not choose to work together because when I came to the school I was put into this classroom.

My colleague had been working for two years in the classroom with a teacher with whom she had no rapport or commonality, and she was very miserable. Thankfully, we get on very well and like you and Kelly share the same views on discipline, organisation, work ethic, student expectations, teaching philosophies, noise tolerance and how we like our classroom to look. It turned out that we went to uni together and had been teaching the same number of years. We both have children of similar ages who went to the same high school. We do a lot of things together, but not as much as you and Kelly. This year I started the Daily 5 with my Year 1 group.

My teaching partner has seen the benefits of Daily 5 with my group and plans to do it next year, which should make things more cohesive. You are very fortunate with the amount of technology in your room. We share an IWB and only have 4 old computers. However, I have just bought an iPad and an iPod which is very exciting. I agree with you about the reflection and bouncing ideas off each other.

We really support each other. If one of us is a bit flat, the other will take up the pace.