Online teaching forced teachers to cooperate more than ever before. The intention of this article is to research and make a point of good cooperation among co-workers. The work that takes place in the first grade has to be well planned, which can be achieved only by good and quality cooperation among teachers. Good planning and positive personal relationships can create new ideas and innovative approach to teaching.
Key words: teamwork, online teaching, teacher, kindergarten teacher, first grade.
Last school year brought the teachers new challenges overnight. In March of 2020, Slovenia declared epidemic due to the spread of the new coronavirus. The educational institutions were closed and teachers had to face a new way of teaching – online teaching. The epidemic was officially declared on 12th March 2020, and the first wave of epidemic lasted in Slovenia for 12 weeks. During this time, the teachers had to adapt not just teaching methods, but also the methods and ways of working as well as new methods of grading. Despite the long uncertainty, the school year ended for all primary pupils in school environment.
This school year, the kindergarten teacher and I welcomed a new generation of first grade pupils. Due to the increase of infected and dead, the government declared the epidemic again on 18th October. The second wave started already during the summer with slight increase of infections, but the rapid spread caused the educational institutions to be closed again in October.
The kindergarten teacher and I were facing new challenges again, but this time we were more prepared.
Online work requires accurate and attentive planning, and that is why the kindergarten teacher and I agreed that a good mutual cooperation is needed not just among the two of us, but within the whole first grade working group.
In the Pedagoška enciklopedija (1989) teamwork is defined as a form of cooperation that is done by a group (of two or more) pedagogical experts on the basis of indirect and equal cooperation and with the intention to reach common goals.
Teachers and kindergarten teachers agreed that we will be unified in delivering the subject matter, and that we will help each other. We were aiming towards a higher effectiveness in teaching, and we also wished to cooperate well. In these uncertain times we realised how important teamwork, good communication and connection between us is. The kindergarten teacher and I were also prepared for a good mutual cooperation and it already started to show in the first two months, while still teaching in the classroom.
A successful team is a team, where the competence, knowledge and expertise of the members exceeds, because this way they work better and more successful. Individuals exceed their individual knowledge and abilities, and together develop new, more successful solutions and results. This is the only way to ensure development and successfulness. (Brajša, 1995)
Soon after we started working online, it showed how important equal cooperation is. The planning of the lessons was faster and more efficient. We also realized how important are active listening, mutual support, feedback exchange and positively accepting critique. We had group meetings on daily basis, where we talked about our work, and exchanged suggestions and ideas for the next day. We allowed each other to be creative, which is possible only if there is mutual trust. We have motivated each other and aimed towards successful cooperation since the beginning of the school year. Teaching in first grade is very diverse and versatile, and we faced this kind of teaching for the first time, so it was really important that we made each other feel emotionally safe. Without emotional safety you cannot achieve a quality relationship.
3. Preparation of lessons
Quality lessons’ preparation requires a lot of time in general. But since we faced teaching first-graders for the first time, we realized we need a good and in-depth preparation. We were aware of the fact that we cannot follow classical planning, because online work will bring us different obstacles (lower motivation, concentration and readiness to work, different pupils’ abilities and different work conditions in their home environments).
The main importance in team planning are flexibility and less-structured process of planning, because they help in achieving more relaxation in relationships and personal openness, which should strengthen innovation and effectiveness of team planning. (Polak, 2008)
A teacher has different jobs in the process of education. Beside teaching, a teacher is in a role of a person and personality. Even Novak (2000) has warned about the fact that one needs different skills by being a teacher in the first nine years of school. The teacher is not the only source of teaching any more, and teaching is not just transmission, but guiding and directing. The kindergarten teacher and I wished that the online teaching would not only consist of lessons, but that we could guide and lead the first-graders, so that they could do their work in good atmosphere and as independently as possible.
When we first started planning, we agreed that everyday contact with the pupils is needed. Because the motivation in this age group is very short, we decided to do a morning circle, which lasted one school hour.
The kindergarten teacher and I divided the tasks by subjects. We discussed daily how the work in the morning circle will run, and how we will teach the subject matter. During planning we listened to each other, and exchanged opinions and ideas.
4. Online teaching
The kindergarten teacher and I contacted the pupils through video conference every day. We called the meeting the morning circle. In the morning circle, the pupils had the possibility to regularly follow the lessons and cooperate in the educational process. First-graders have a short concentration span, so we decided to not only explain verbally, but also teach with the help of pictures and video explanations. First-graders cannot work well with reding materials, they are not so skilled in using different sources, and have problems extracting the essence without additional explanation, so we decided to dedicate 10 minutes to each subject. We tried to explain the subject matter in an interesting and attractive way with transparent and concrete work instructions. We used a lot PowerPoint presentations, and that turned out to be a great way to explain subject matter. Most of the time the first-graders were very motivated to continue working. We filmed the explanation for those that were not present in the morning circle, and they could watch it later or in the afternoon (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-HXlioF7YNtDXb_EQYf9cw/videos).
An important part was also good and daily cooperation with the parents, to whom we sent all the materials.
We also agreed that we have to encourage the physical development of pupils, so we performed daily sport tasks, and also included some relaxing activities during the lessons. Mostly it was important to us that the pupils feel that they are improving, gaining success and keep the feeling of belonging to the group. It showed quickly how independent they are becoming and how skilful in using the technology.
We wanted the pupils to also get to know some contents experimentally, so we included, mostly when learning about environment, some activities that they had to do directly in nature, and they reported about it during the morning circle. With these we also achieved that they spontaneously, in a child’s manner, explored the world around them. The main idea of experimental learning is that we learn the most, when we do something by ourselves, and are active while learning. (Marentič Požarnik, 1987, p. 66)
Picture 3. Learning numer seven.
In the 2020/2021 school year the kindergarten teacher and I faced new challenges – online teaching. During this time, it became clear how important is a good cooperation among all people involved in the educational process. Online teaching can show good results and develop positive climate only with teachers that mutually support and encourage each other, that exchange knowledge, plan together and help each other with work. Online studies cannot replace classical teaching in the classroom. But I also believe that future will bring us unexpected challenges, that is why mutual connection and collective encouragement is even more important.
- Brajša, P. (1995). Sedem skrivnosti uspešne šole. Maribor: Doba.
- Marentič Požarnik, B. (1987). Nova pota v izobraževanju učiteljev. Ljubljana: Državna založba Slovenije.
- Novak, M. (2005). Vloga učitelja v devetletni osnovni šoli. Nova Gorica: Educa.
- Pedagoška enciklopedija (1989). Beograd: Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstva.
- Polak, A. (2008). Učitelji, učenci in starši o prvem triletju osnovne šole. Ljubljana: Pedagoški inštitut.