I was speaking with my new team of teachers about collaboration and what it looked like for them at previous schools. The responses shared were not at all what I had hoped. I’m not sure what it is about the teacher mindset, but we sometimes forget how much power comes from conversation with others. Why is it that doors are closed and ideas are “secret”? Are we all not working towards the same goal to “Better OUR students for the future”? Notice I capitalized ‘our’ because yes, they are all ours. No one can change the world on their own. We have to come together, unite and work as one. Here are a few things my team tries to do to improve collaboration:
Schedule Meetings Accordingly
When your team prepares for planning dates, be sure to have a calendar out and an idea in mind. Make sure that everyone is on the same page with time, location, and some possible agenda items you plan to discuss. If it is a meeting where a decision needs to be made, share that information prior to the meeting time. People feel less intimidated when they can see where things are going and be somewhat prepared for that journey.
Understand that life happens. Yes, you just sat with your team and scheduled these meetings and sometimes, they do not go exactly as you planned. Be flexible and willing to adapt. Make room for “just in time” planning and “just in time” rescheduling when things don’t work out. At your collaboration meetings, go with the goal in mind and if you don’t get there, know that this is where you would like to start for your next meeting.
Be Honest With Each Other
Vocalize your concerns with your team. If there is something you are unclear about, share it out. If there is a decision that needs to be made and you are not on board, ask for a vote. “Fist to Five” is a great strategy and so is a thumbs up, down, or sideways. Create a way to show how everyone is feeling about the issue that is nonverbal and nonthreatening. Teachers are the most creative people, come up with something that works for you and your teammates.
Laugh often. It does not have to be a serious moment of deeply rooted planning every time you meet. When planning your meetings, plan for a social gathering as well. Step out of the classroom and meet at a restaurant for happy hour or in another part of the school. If you can’t have fun doing what you love, do you really have a love for it? Make time for “getting to know you betters” and find ways to connect with your team. These are the people you will see on a daily basis. The people you want to trust to share students (Check out ClassDojo’s new share feature if you haven’t already!), ideas, and values with. Take some time to create a professional relationship with them.
The value of relationships is priceless. Working together as a team allows teachers the endless opportunity for growth. This 21st Century school rings loudly in the lessons we teach to our students daily and yet we do not model what that actually looks like. In an effort to reach our common goal, the success for ALL students, let us stand by the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”