William P. Gray Elementary School in Chicago is starting its sixth year of Teach to One: Math (TTO). In that time, it has seen three different portals, a range of virtual vendors come and go, and over 1,200 students engaging in Teach to One: Math’s personalized learning model. Amid the many changes, there’s been one constant: the teachers’ can-do attitudes, their focus on collaborative teaching models, and the passion they all share for the students they teach.
The start of year six looked like many of the others. New students participated in TTO orientation, teachers helped students practice transitions, and music had to be set up. A new year always brings new challenges, and though many teachers at Gray are seasoned pedagogues, they never stop embracing opportunities for professional growth.
The TTO model, unlike that of a traditional classroom, incorporates shared resources, shared students, and shared accountability. Without collaboration, every teacher may end up with different routines and expectations. An open math center like Gray’s needs streamlined systems in place so that all students, regardless of teacher or modality, know what is expected of them.
Gray’s math team has a range of backgrounds and big differences in years of experience. On paper, one would think that their daily common planning might end in a draw on all topics. But if there’s one quality that makes the math team at Gray so successful, it’s their collaboration. They approach every discussion with an open mind and their students’ interests at heart. Hearing them talk is inspiring. They are courteous, good-humored and, most importantly, they support each other.
Student orientation has not even concluded yet, but the team is already discussing year-long strategies for student growth and refining how they approach planning. They’ve even had time to brainstorm which seasonal flavors of coffee creamer everyone wants to try this fall!
The Gray team is just that… a team. They are respectful of each other as professionals, even during disagreements, and they genuinely care about each other as friends outside of the classroom. There have been a few staff changes over the years, but more than half of the math team has been at Gray since TTO launched. Often, they’re asked about the differences between having their own classrooms and working in an open math center. Their answer is always the same: We wouldn’t trade teaching with each other like this for a classroom.
Want another look at a collaborative teaching team? Math Director Danielle Doyle, and 2017 Teacher of the Year, shares her story of how teaching in a math center and sharing common planning time improved relationships among teachers and students.