March 2, 2017

I’m one of the late evening writers. I’m not sure why, but that’s not what I want to say tonight.

Today I had my thinking challenged in a conversation about what collaboration really means. It started when a colleague asked how we acknowledge and meet the needs of our students who are true introverts, who may find all our emphasis on group work and “collaboration,” not only uncomfortable, but even terrifying. As an introvert myself, her comment immediately got my attention. Most often, I prefer to work by myself. I love communicating with others, sharing ideas and possibilities, but when it comes to “doing the work,” I would rather do it by myself. Taking time and having quiet to process and plan best fits who I am.

Then, another teacher contributed that we often call the work of our CTs collaborative, when they are more a forum for communicating about instruction, students, and the nuts and bolts of teaching. We spend time with each other, work to come to consensus about common teaching and learning outcomes, and sometimes, that communication leads to collaboration.

In her view, when each member of the group brings their ideas to the table, the best of each person’s ideas grows into something new that none had come to on their own. Communication facilitates collaboration, but if there is not an evolution of thinking, collaboration has not yet occurred. Everyone agreeing to one person’s ideas is not the same as creating something new together.  Collaboration may not happen in the meeting itself. It might become an iterative process where the internal and external processors in the group are free to work away from the group and come together again with new ideas and ways of thinking.

This is something of a shift in how I think I might move forward with our grade level teams. Maybe meetings will seem less frustrating or less scary by acknowledging that for some people (including me) a product of collaboration can include time for individuals to work alone and return to the group refreshed. Is this another way to think about going slow to go fast? What might happen if we lift some of the pressure to have a product every time we meet? (And where does that pressure come from anyway?) How could the quality of work be raised if we paused to consider and respect how the best of each of our ideas could contribute to something more than any of us could do alone?

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3 comments on “March 2, 2017

  1. Veronica says:

    “.. time for individuals to work alone and return to the group refreshed.”

    Heart of my teaching life right now. I love and am so thankful for your description of true collaboration. It’s something to carry with me and hold on to until I have the courage to have that discussion with my peers.

    “Being on” all the time is so difficult sometimes. Happy, refreshed teachers make for happy, refreshed teaching.. and happy children. 🙂

    Thank you so much!

  2. You describe so well what collaboration is, as well as, what some think is but isn’t.
    I like the phrase, “the best of each of our ideas”.

  3. Ms. Jackson says:

    One of my mentors, a VP, once told me at a conference that she hates the “table talk” portion because by the time she has had time to process the info, the task, and formulate her opinion, “time is up!” and it’s time to share. She said it makes her feel dumb and frustrated. I try to remember and respect that in my classes.

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