One of the most precious commodities teachers talk about is time. We want and need time to plan lessons...time to mark student work and provide feedback...time to contact parents and deal with administrative tasks...time to collaborate with peers. The reality is that teaching is usually a private and solitary profession: it's just you and the kids. And while we understand how to do our planning, marking, phone calling, and paperwork on our own---not very many teachers have a protocol in mind for working together.
This district, like several others in the state, has one-day per week where students are released early in order to give teachers some common planning time. There is always a pull between administration and teachers about this time. Teachers would like to self-direct and admin would like some accountability. I'm quite sure I'm in the minority about this, but I don't think admin's request is unwarranted. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars wrapped up in salary and benefits for non-student time. If teachers truly think they need this time for something, it's not too much to ask that it be tied to professional goals.
We support teacher collaboration in terms of time---but not in terms of professional development. In other words, we don't provide training in the structures surrounding collaboration. How do we have productive discussion around student work? Standards-based lesson planning? Interventions for struggling students? Best practices in literacy and/or content instruction? There is an assumption that teachers naturally know what to do when they meet to make these discussions happen. In my years here, however, I've rarely seen rubber meet road during these common planning time sessions. We need to take the time to train and support teachers in the culture we expect them to adopt before we expect them to be able to have meaningful collaborative conversations.