Education

Sacramento teachers begin collaborating on classroom strategies

Teacher sees benefit in paid time to collaborate

Sacramento City Unified teachers are staying on campus for an hour of paid collaboration. What's the benefit? Being able to connect and exchange ideas with other teachers, says Gio Boone, seventh-grade language arts teacher at Albert Einstein Midd
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Sacramento City Unified teachers are staying on campus for an hour of paid collaboration. What's the benefit? Being able to connect and exchange ideas with other teachers, says Gio Boone, seventh-grade language arts teacher at Albert Einstein Midd

If you see more students zigzagging while reading couplets out loud at Albert Einstein Middle School, credit Peggie Clapper.

The eighth-grade English teacher told her colleagues that when it’s time for poetry, her students walk forward as they read Shakespeare aloud. Each time they reach end-of-line punctuation – a period, exclamation point, question mark or semicolon – they pivot left or right, keep walking and continue reading.

“I have kids going in all directions,” she said. “For an outsider, it would look totally chaotic. But the kids know what’s happening.”

Clapper shared her creative technique during a new teacher collaboration hour that’s taking place each week at Sacramento City Unified School District campuses, an approach that districts around the region have embraced in recent years. To carve out that hour, the district’s 43,000 students spend extra time in class four days a week in exchange for leaving early on Thursdays.

The school district points to research suggesting that a regular collaboration period can enhance teaching and learning. Teachers agreed to the schedule shift as part of a June contract deal that included 5 percent in retroactive pay raises.

Folsom Cordova, Elk Grove and Davis Joint unified school districts also have time for collaboration built into teachers’ weekly work schedules. San Juan Unified teachers have been meeting regularly during work hours for more than a decade.

Earlier this month, 35 teachers at Einstein Middle School in Rosemont were grouped in the multipurpose room with colleagues who teach the same subject.

“We discover what other teachers are doing as far as techniques or innovative ideas that we may have never thought of,” said math teacher Val Barcenas. “We just learn from each other on an ongoing basis.”

We discover what other teachers are doing as far as techniques or innovative ideas that we may have never thought of.

Math teacher Val Barcenas

At Einstein, Barcenas said he was gratified to hear that his colleagues also review math concepts before diving into more difficult problems.

At the English table, Clapper’s poetry-in-motion approach was a hit.

“They have to determine …” Clapper began.

“Where one thought ends and another begins,” enthused another English teacher.

Einstein Principal Garrett Kirkland said teachers helped devise the plan for weekly meetings. “The fact that it’s in their day and paid for means they really feel valued,” he said.

Iris Taylor, chief academic officer for Sacramento City schools, said previously that the district also wants teachers to find ways to incorporate district initiatives such social and emotional learning or restorative justice into math or art. Some meetings, she said, could also evolve into cross-campus sessions involving teachers from neighboring schools.

District spokesman Gabe Ross said Tuesday that will mean finding a balance between district and teacher needs. “We realize for it to be effective, it has got to be teacher-driven,” he said.

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