Thursday, March 10, 2016

Collaboration and Cooperation Instead of Competition

It has been a challenging week at school. Without going into detail, because I can't bring myself to air dirty laundry on the internet for all the world to see, nor will I speak poorly of the people and institutions that are a part of my life, I can only say...It was a week that challenged me as a teacher, as a professional and as an individual.

This afternoon I attended a meeting with other teachers in my district who have committed to strengthening our writing curriculum, instruction and assessment.  We were fortunate to have our writing consultant with us and had the opportunity to ask questions and share tangles in our writing instruction.  Sitting in that meeting, taking in the rich conversation and hearing that other teachers are struggling with the same things I am eased my frustration and discouragement.  My sense of purpose and determination was renewed.

On my ride home I was able to reflect on the challenges of the week through a different lens, one that was a bit rosier.  Until today I was flying solo in my efforts to figure things out, to untangle the mysteries of standards-based learning and teaching, to identify strategies for reaching my struggling learners and address the tenuous sense of community in my classroom.  Having the opportunity to converse with other teachers made all the difference in the world.  I may not have the answers and solutions I've been looking for, but I know I'm not alone.

So, I got to thinking about the bigger picture.  In an average week, I will spend 50 hours teaching and planning on my own.  I will spend 1 hour a week (3 if I have a district committee meeting) collaborating with other teachers.  Zooming out a bit more, our school staff will work together specifically on a focused iniative as a staff maybe 2 hours a week within our building and work collaboratively with other schools 4 or 5 times throughout the school year.  And our district as a whole will log 0 hours working collaboratively or in cooperation with other districts.  But we all face the same challenges and we are all working toward the same goal.  We all want the same thing but we are working toward this goal by ourselves.  I wonder why.  Because it seems to me that if we came out of isolation, stepped out of our silos and worked together more often, we would accomplish so much more.  Instead of racing to be the first in our area to reach the finish line (although we all know that we are never "done") or be the best, why aren't we working together, sharing ideas and resources to provide the very best for all students, not just our own students?

I have learned, over the past few years in my educational leadership courses that although I want to be the best I can be, I cannot be my best self by myself.  I'm not convinced anyone can.  Collaboration and cooperation are what it takes to get the job done well. Save the competition for the sports field.


  1. I agree. Maybe seeing what working together within a school accomplishes, other will start thinking about what more could be done extending cooperation

  2. This totally hits home for me. I too have felt that feeling of isolation as a teacher as well as the uplifting feeling of collaborating with other teacher leaders. Keep up the good work!

  3. I changed jobs this year and now have a true teaching partnership where we collaborate daily. It has been a godsend.

  4. And yet, when we are forced to collaborate, often the creativity and a sense of lock-step creep in... and then we need to take a step back again. Because all those words you listed yesterday, are the "organization" words that make teaching and learning not fun. It is a fine line.

  5. We cannot do this work alone. Thank goodness reminders like these come now and again to replenish our hope and energy for the work ahead. Sometimes it can be an overwhelming and lonely journey....only if you let it. We are in this together.