Today’s letter is C for the A to Z Blogging Challenge and my C is for:
Collaboration. You know, working together as a team. I am going to write this from a teacher’s point of view because lately, collaboration is all the rage in education. As teachers, we are often given time (during the school day) to work with our grade level or subject matter co-teachers to share ideas and plan for lessons. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.
However, there are a couple of problems with it. First, you cannot put several teachers in a room and call it collaboration. Why? Because we won’t do it. Now, I am not saying we ALWAYS will refuse to collaborate or that it is some form of protest or dissent. It certainly is not.
The true reason we sometimes “forget” to collaborate during appointed times is because we have about five thousand things running through our minds during the school day and it is tough to shove those things to the side. When I have about one hour for my planning and 30 minutes of it is earmarked by the administration for collaboration time, I have to run around for the first 30 minutes and try to accomplish all the tasks I must do (grade papers, enter grades into computer, make copies, email parents, etc, etc, etc.), then I dash to “Collaboration Time” frustrated because I did not get all my tasks complete and instead of really learning and sharing with my colleagues, all the things that I didn’t finish are dancing around in my mind.
I admit it is all my fault, and I should come up with a better way to make use of the first and second 30 minutes, but for some reason, I always end up sitting in collaboration meetings pissed off because I didn’t plan better, accomplish more and/or finish that one last important thing!
Please DON’T think I am campaigning for no more teacher collaboration!!! I LOVE sharing & “stealing” ideas from other educators! Actually, most teachers LOVE to meet with other teachers and share ideas. Heck, I learned more from the experienced teachers down the hall during my first year of teaching than I ever learned in teaching school!!! Also, I would be a fool NOT to plan with my present coworkers. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by GREAT teachers and GREAT administrators!!
My point is: Collaboration is good and it works but it doesn’t always work when squeezed into an already crazy school day so how can we as educators find a better, more efficient and productive way to do it? Here are just a few humble suggestions:
Embrace the Technology:
With all the technology we have today and all the resources that surround us in the 21st century, shouldn’t there be a way that teachers could collaborate and share without 30 minutes of my oh-so-precious planning time being taken away? There are about a thousand collaboration/project planning apps, and websites on the internet. Could we use one of those and still get all the benefits without being face to face during the school days?
Meet outside the school building after the school day is over:
I know. I know. We all have busy lives and many other commitments to honor after we end the work day. Nobody wants to stay later when you already take 2 to 3 hours of work home with you each evening (or at least every other evening), but if teachers met at a different location (local restaurant, coffee shop, or a fellow collaborator’s home) would it allow the needed time to shift gears in your head and really focus on planning, sharing and working together to create lessons and assessments? I am not sure honestly. This also brings teacher contract, and extended day issues into play, which could be a problem.
Let the Team Decide:
What if the team got to choose their collaboration times/days? If parameters were set in place with collaboration goals that must be met, wouldn’t it be just as beneficial if the grade level or subject matter teams decided exactly when and where they collaborated together? Daniel Pink writes in his book, Drive, that people need autonomy to be properly motivated when accomplishing goals or tasks. I think this would give teachers ownership in their learning process and therefore, activate their desire to share and plan together.
There are issues with all three of my suggestions, and to be honest, I am not sure how well any of them would work. But I do think that a little tweaking to teacher collaboration is needed to produce the most optimum sharing environment for everyone involved.
If you teach or work in an industry (other than education), that requires quite a bit of collaboration, how do you meet and share with your co-workers? Does it work? Are you happy with that mode? I would LOVE to hear your suggestions and comments!!
Until tomorrow, have a great day!