An international colleague of mine, Eric Saibel (@ecsaibel), posed one of his brilliant, thought-provoking questions to me and a bunch of our Twitter #PLN:
How do we make adult collaboration visible to students? (See Principals in Training Post – it’s good!)
Indeed. How do we? And, perhaps more importantly, why should we?
Oh, the fascinating power of ‘likemindedness’ toward a greater goal! Not in the frightening, illogical sense of us versus them, good versus bad, smart versus struggling, teacher versus student or (worst yet) teacher versus teacher.
Being able to work with others in productive, problem solving ways is one of the premises of a democratic society. Collaborative work skills are part of the repertoire of the so-called 21st century skills needed to succeed in today’s world. Like most skills, they are learned through practice as well as observation of more experienced collaborators in practice.
What experienced collaborators have your students seen in action lately? “We will collaborate, class… here are some fundamental pieces for effective collaboration… now go practice… what do you mean it isn’t working?…didn’t we talk about what was important?… try again… Why do these problems keep coming up?”
As teaching professionals, most of us know the power of a group working together for a common goal. Think PLC structures, informal collegial conversations, dropping by the admin office, professional development opportunities, coaching cycles, and so on. We learn with each other, set norms, work together, take responsibility for contributing to the learning. It happens all the time, but usually behind closed doors, away from the people who could really benefit from seeing us as collaborative role models – our students.
What will it take for the adults in our schools to make their collaborative thinking visible? First, I would propose considering the following questions (and my humble opinions on the matter):
How might the pressure of ‘sage on the stage’ mentality be affecting you in your classroom?
It’s a lot of pressure, and usually unnecessary. Co-teaching or collaborating with colleagues not only supports the good work that you’re doing already, it sets a great example of collaboration for your students to witness – real life collaborative skills at work.
Who else might see power and potential in the process of visible collaboration?
Look around you – people (colleagues, kids, parents, community members) are everywhere in your school, and they’re experiencing similar joys, sorrows, questions, and answers on their educational journey. Talk to someone you trust, consider ways you could collaborate as models for students, and give it a shot.
Why might you make the time and resource investment into visible collaboration?
Your students and colleagues want their experiences to be meaningful and connected, just like you. There is an abundance of leadership in every school culture, people willing to invest the time and resources into what ultimately translates into greater success for all. Be part of that investment.
In Working Across Boundaries: Making Collaboration Work in Government and Nonprofit Organizations by Russell Linden (2002), successful collaborators know the positive outcomes of their work.
“Their goal isn’t collaboration for its own sake; … their goal lies at the heart of their organization’s mission: they are working across boundaries to deliver better service, value, and outcomes for customers, stakeholders, and communities. That’s the ultimate purpose of any worthwhile collaborative effort. ” (p. 6)
As a teacher, you are never alone in your efforts to support students.
How might you and your colleagues start the process of visible collaboration?
Principals In Training ‘Two Bloggers Are Better Than One’ Co-Post – check out my friend Eric’s idea’s on the subject.
21st Century Business Demands Collaboration – David Nour’s blog post reflects on the power of collaboration in business (many applications to teaching)