More and more people seem to be embracing the concept of collaboration, as valuable for students to learn and for teachers to practice. I thought I knew what it was, but I think I have more thinking to do. The convergence of a few things today have made me rethink some assumptions.
A colleague and I realized that we were accumulating a lot of links to resources we would like to share with our department and come back to later. In this case collaboration means pooling our resources in a relatively organized way. With a dizzying array of ever changing resources available, we need to be alert to new developments and willing to jettison those that no longer seem viable. This task is really only manageable if everyone is on board and contributing in some way. We created a departmental Moodle page and included all of the teachers in the department.
Collaboration can mean a shared vision, but it does not have to. After watching a TED talk on being wrong today, I came to think that it might be counterproductive and even dangerous to have too much agreement among team members. I am wondering if it is more important to share a general common vision – viewing the curriculum through the lens of what is best for students. That can mean different things to different people, but so long as we agree that is the vision, we can work together. The next step is a willingness not only to be wrong, but to allow others to be wrong as well. It might mean deferring to a colleague’s passion and being non-judgmental when a lesson or assignment does not seem to work well. It also means being willing to rethink our own ideas when that lesson or assignment is successful. We encourage our students to learn from their mistakes and to take risks in order to grow. Are we willing to do the same ourselves? It seems like we could really provide strong modeling on this issue.
In the end, maybe collaboration is about ongoing conversation, generosity with our colleagues, a willingness to take risks, make mistakes, be wrong, and learn from it. One thing I do still strongly believe is that in order to truly collaborate we need to leave our egos aside.