I REFER to the comment by Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid in "When on the path of reform, go idea-hunting" (NST, July 6). His writings on whatever issues always fascinate me. The concluding statement mentioned "harmonious relations". This catchy phrase is significant and has a great impact on teachers' daily task, which is synonymous with professional harmony or collegiality among teachers.
Collegiality is critical to a school's success. Successful and effective schools are ones in which there is a high level of collegiality among the staff. Therefore, teachers are expected to work closely with other teachers and school administrators. Schools cannot be improved without strong collegial environments. The traditional scenario where teachers work independently and alone in their classrooms should be a thing of the past.
In layman's terms, collegiality refers to the cooperative and collaborative relationship among colleagues in a particular organisation. In the school context, collegiality is teachers' involvement with their colleagues on any level, be it intellectually, socially, emotionally or more importantly, professionally. A collegial environment is one in which teachers are able to work with other teachers and teachers work well with administrators.
However, there might be small groups of teachers who are at odds with their colleagues and are united in hatred towards someone in the school. This scenario would hinder collegiality in such a school. Therefore, every teacher must be contributing to collegiality instead of presenting barriers to achieving it.
Collegiality is important for teachers, as they cannot work in isolation in order to sustain a professional and social contact among them to improve school performance. If such an atmosphere prevails, teachers enjoy much stronger support from their colleagues. Such a condition will encourage staff to contribute new ideas, suggestions and opinions. Teachers are more effective in such a scenario. In schools, where group commitment is high, teachers can work together effectively and put their efforts collectively into creating and sustaining opportunities for school improvement and students' learning. This climate can also provide mental relaxation and a cheerful atmosphere, which is crucial in enhancing efficiency. Therefore, it is important for teachers to avoid isolation.
Collegiality among teachers is considered essential for a school's improvement and success. The most promising strategy for sustained and substantive improvement is developing the ability among school personnel to function as collegial communities. Collegial communities create an environment that supports high levels of innovation, enthusiasm and energy among teachers.
If teachers enjoy working with their colleagues, mutual respect and trust develops among them. As such, school heads must encourage some collegial activities in their schools as these activities create a sense of belonging. They provide opportunities to involve many individuals in solving complex educational problems.
For schools to function effectively, collegiality is important as it can affect the performance of teachers, coordination of curriculum and the overall health of schools. In cases where unpleasant and abrasive working relationships exist, productivity is affected, student learning can be impacted negatively, the curriculum may become disjointed and fractured as teachers promote different philosophies and expectations of students.
School improvement programmes through introduction and implementation of changes can only be implemented if a high degree of collegiality exists among the staff members. Thus, schools with strong collegial environments are better able to implement changes than schools with weak collegial environments.
Although teachers spend nearly every working minute with students and have few opportunities for interaction with their colleagues, this claim should be no longer accurate. Collegiality, interaction, and collaboration among teachers are a must as this affects teachers' morale, happiness, and satisfaction. Hence, collegial isolation should not be prevalent in schools though teaching itself is known for an "isolation of practice". Thus, the level of collegiality must be sustained and be made to prevail.
Teachers must interact with each other more than ever before. A school cannot realise its full potential without cooperative interaction among its teachers. A teacher may choose to transfer out of a school for similar reason -- the people they interact with, not the actual job. It is hard to be satisfied and happy in a teaching career when people do not get along. A successful school is built around teachers who work together as a team with high level of collegiality, collaboration, positive interaction, and cooperation. Teachers working together are more effective than a group of teachers working alone.
By Dr Dzulkiflee Abdullah, Bau, Sarawak Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 25 July 2012