Sunday, December 14, 2008

Meeting is not collaborating!

Really, it isn't. So why do so many of us think that we are collaborating when we are engaged in nothing more than discussion of how to best accomplish some piece of "administrivia?"

I think that the main reason is our lack of understanding how to collaborate. If communicating and collaborating are essential 21st Century literacies, then our students are in trouble. Teaching can be one of the least collaborative endeavors ever. Teachers enter their classrooms everyday with the mindset that they stand alone in a sea of children (whatever their age).

It doesn't have to be that way. We can learn to collaborate, but we'll have to be teaching ourselves how. I don't think that many administrators know much more about working and teaming than anyone else in education.

Having made that optimistic statement, I need to admit that I'm not sure how I'm going to teach myself more collaborative skills, but I'm going to start by doing some reading and talking, my favorite methodologies for learning something new. Peter Gow has a great post on the lost potential of department heads and he's onto something there. I think the same could be said for middle school teaming structures.

Kim Cofino writes a lot about the work she's doing, and while I don't think she specifically talks about the structure of collaboration, its there. So, I'm going to catch up on what she's written as part of my research. It's as good a start as any, and better than many!


Kim Cofino said...

I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with! Collaboration is a big focus for me and I am constantly surprised at how little we understand about true collaboration, yet how often we talk about collaborating.

I wrote a post about a year ago after attending a conference in Berlin where the difference between coordination, cooperation and collaboration was described. It really opened my eyes to the ways that others might view collaboration.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Sarah

I agree with Kim. We have to 'walk the talk' to use an old (20th century) saying.

We spend too much time on the collaborative approach to really think of what it means to glean something useful from collaborating.

In many respects, it smacks too much of putting emphasis on the process and less on what it yields.

My hunch (I put a lot of store in hunches :) is that it also invokes "things not only have to be done - they have to be seen to be done". Perhaps there is a fallacy in this seeming proverb. If we spend so much time making sure everything is seen to be done, we get nothing done.

There is an adage, "no work of art was ever created by a committee". To me art IS innovation. Yet we look for innovation in just about everything that education purports to produce. Unfortunately (and I always hesitate to use that word) most major decisions in education are made by committees of one sort or another.

We become manacled by our own strappings. And we feel that the only way to improve on what's gone before is to further the constraints through more decision-making by committees.

from Middle-earth

Sarah Hanawald said...

Thanks Kim--I re-read your post yesterday, and it really helped me focus myself for a meeting/conversation that I was not excited about. Your observation about librarians needing to use backwards design to embed themselves in the curriculum really resonated with me. I extrapolated librarian to support faculty at large. It comes back to Stevey Covey's ideas in a way, about making sure that the important doesn't always get shoved aside for the urgent.

I'm going to do some linking to your work, so don't be surprised if you see a lot of NC traffic towards your blog soon!

Do you know Peter Gow's work? I'll leave a link to his blogs on yours.

@Ken--I had to think about what you've written for a little while (you tend to do that to me, make me think!). You know, as a teacher of young adolescents, I value process. Then, after thinking about your excellent point I realized that process without yield is, well, wheel-spinning. Good teachers emphasize process carefully and intentionally rather than just using it to keep everyone busy.

Could the same be said of teacher meetings? We meet because the calendar says we should--it's the process, not the yield.

Thank you for coming by!