Ever since my time as a fifth-grade teacher in the Bronx, nearly 20 years ago, I have wanted to departmentalize and focus on teaching reading and writing. Since then my journey has taken me from that fifth-grade classroom to serving as a literacy specialist and coach (and from New York City to upstate New York). Social distancing guidelines due to Covid landed me back in the fifth-grade classroom this fall.
Like me, Stacy has held many positions in our district, teaching multiple grade levels and serving as a special area science teacher. She too found herself back in the fifth-grade classroom this fall. When we were given the option to partner, with me teaching reading and writing workshop and her math and the content areas, we enthusiastically agreed.
While we are both dedicated to our students and to the overall school community, often taking on leadership roles, we had never worked closely together. Little did I know, that our seamless partnership would offer much-needed connectedness and support during this time of isolation.
While we have similar dispositions and beliefs, our partnership resembles one of a scientist and an artist. Since Stacy and I go into each other’s classroom to teach the other’s class, we’ve made efforts to arrange the room so that it supports each discipline. Stacy has offered me space to store supplies, and full use of a bulletin board and whiteboard. When she asks me to rearrange desks, I do so without question. One time, I came back to my class to find that she neatly rearranged the desk formation so that it made rows rather than the zigzag I had left when my students moved their desks the day before. I laughed and appreciated how Stacy brought order to my free-flowing room. Mostly, in this time of isolation, there is something comforting about sharing a space and knowing that I am not alone within the four walls of my classroom.
While I may have an artist’s mind as a teacher, doing art, specifically crafts, is not my forte. Stacy, on the other hand, is amazing at crafts and genuinely enjoys doing them with students. She generously shares supplies and does projects with my students every Friday. She often tells me, “Your students LOVE crafts.” To which I reply, “And I am so grateful that you do crafts with them!” Thanks to Stacy, my students have beautiful Valentine bags ready for our celebration this week, and snowflakes and hearts hang from my ceiling.
Mostly, teaching the same students means that Stacy and I share observations, concerns, and excitement about student growth. It makes the sometimes isolated profession of classroom teaching more joyful and satisfying. I have come to look forward to my quick conversations with Stacy in between class periods about our shared students.
Seamless partnerships are not always easy to find. Collaborating with Stacy has brought light and joy to these difficult teaching times and circumstances.