I am not a natural collaborator.
Anyone I have ever been on a team with would be able to confirm this fact.
I am passionate. I am zealous. I am idealistic. I am stubborn.
I get a vision in my mind and I have to make it happen.
Even though I am not a natural collaborator, I’m slowing learning how to collaborate – and I must say, it’s been pretty great.
For me, my (slow) transformation can be summed up by this quote:
Last year, I knew I believed in student agency and set off (mostly on my own) to turn that vision into a reality. That’s not to say I didn’t have an amazing team around me! I had six wonderful teachers who personally supported me and cheered me on, no matter how different or crazy my idea seemed. It’s just that none of them were professionally interested in going the same direction that I was, or to the extent that I was. So last year, I knew where I wanted to go, I went by myself and I got there fast.
This year, I have another amazing team around me. The difference being they are professionally interested in the same things that I am, so I am no longer alone in my pursuit to respect and support student agency – and that has helped me truly learn the power of collaboration. With them I have been able to go much farther than I ever made it last year on my own.
Here are a few examples that have helped me along my journey:
Going fast – last year I knew I wanted to have my students plan their own day…. so I had them plan their own day. Pretty much, right out of the gate! I gave them an empty day plan, and only really made a few slight adjustments to the template over the year.
Going far – this year I shared my approach from last year. We tested it out, discussed it, revised it, tested it again, revised it again, tried something different, asked for feedback, revised it again. What was once a fairly basic day plan template and process, grew into a more sophisticated template and process of planning, which then transformed into an even more sophisticated template and process for weekly planning!
Going fast – last year I knew I wanted students to set up their learning space… so I had them set-up their learning space.
Going far – this year I proposed them same idea, which after many collective brainstorms, turned into a grade-wide learning space re-design. Students conducted research about learning spaces, collected data from their 84 community members, collaborated with students from a variety of homerooms, learned new technical skills (like 3D Floor Planner) put together video proposals and made informed choices about their learning space.
Going fast – last year I knew I wanted all three voices to be heard equally at three-way conferences. So I made a very basic placemat and had parents, students and myself take turns deciding whether something was a “star” or a “wish”.
Going far – this year I pitched the same idea to my team…then, the magic of collaboration happened… and we ended up with a Gradual Increase of Responsibility, where students, parents and teachers could share their perspective, in a colour-coded way, which then could be kept and used to set and track personal goals on a day to day basis.
Starting to get the picture?
I couldn’t have ever imagined the distance these initial ideas would come to reach. But that’s the point isn’t is? True collaboration is leaving a room with ideas that no one person could have come up with on their own.
… So to those of you educators out there who are like me, you may want to pause and ask yourself:
Do you want to go fast…. or do you want to go far?