This was a difficult task for me – I’ve been around and around it in my head for days. I have been so influenced by other amazing collaborators (see slides below), the research I’ve done on it over the years, and the collaborative groups I’ve been a part of, that I had trouble identifying me in it.
So, during my collaborative planning meetings this week, I took a few moments in each one to check in and try to “see myself”. Here is what I noticed:
- Pause, Paraphrase, Probe: The 7 norms of collaboration have had a huge influence on me as a collaborator. Probing by asking for an example really helps me clarify what another person is saying. I pause a lot too after someone has shared an idea so we can all think it through; it has taken people some time to get used to it, but I’ve had colleagues tell me how effective they find it now. I also frequently paraphrase what’s been said to ensure I understand the intended meaning.
- Environment: A few years ago I was fortunate enough to go to Reggio Emilia on a study tour to look at their early childhood work and schools. One of the things that really struck me was the aesthetics of the spaces – not just the classrooms, but all the areas. I have worked hard to turn our meeting room into a warm, relaxing environment by adding soft lighting, plants, curtains, artworks, water glasses, etc… I think it helps the collaborative process to work in a calming environment where people feel comforted and cared for. I also give out lots of hugs – and chocolate on the really bad days.
- Routines: I ask teachers to bring something to the meeting each week to share with their colleagues. It can be anything that worked well in their class that week – a video, a learning engagement, a provocation, a conversation starter, etc… Many times this has led to deeper discussions about what is/isn’t working in classrooms and as a group we’ve come up with a variety of innovative ideas. It seems a small thing, but it has had a profound effect on the teaching in our school.
- Visual images: I posted a story about this before, but whenever I think of collaborative work, brooms, fruit salad and crayons come to mind. I have these images printed and framed above my desk as a constant reminder to check myself and allow the “magic of the group” to drive the session.
- Goodbye ego: A few years ago, an amazing teacher led a staff session for us on how we can use collaborative tools to further our school collaborative culture. At the end of all the activities, we had to review the content we’d created and boil it down to a twitter post. 140 characters is HARD for someone as verbose as I am. While I don’t remember the exact post, it was basically: Let go of the ego; embrace the we-go.
- Synergy: One of the greatest feelings I get is from the synergy that comes out of a great collaborative session. Not only do we create something important to us, we also feel more connected to each other. This is the best way I can describe it:
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 [Digital image]. (2013, September 27). Retrieved September 17, 2016, from http://www.eatyourcomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/91-640×351.jpg