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Collaborating in Education

by Education Blog

Posted on March 7, 2018

In a previous blog, I made a comment about the culture in schools that constricts teachers to "The strict confines of their content area." One of the most gratifying parts of my job is the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues. Crossing curriculum lines to create projects can be fantastic, enjoyable, and enlightening. I genuinely enjoy getting to introduce an idea, and then hear everyone's perspective. It refines my own understanding of the topic and forces me to consider other viewpoints and solutions to the problem at hand. No teacher should feel that they are an island unto themselves for better or worse.  When we as teachers isolate ourselves by "closing our doors and just teaching," we rob ourselves of all that collaboration has to offer.
We deprive ourselves of a deeper understanding of our role within the larger context, the relationships that are built with our colleagues, and a more impactful and effective model for teaching and LEARNING.
In the words from Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical, Finish The Hat; "I collabor him and he collabors me," I am reminded of the importance of collaboration in everything that we do. I first heard this quote during a documentary of the musical, "Hamilton: An American Story." This musical took the country by storm in recent years. Stories about the musical and its creator were ubiquitous in news and media. The country was fascinated not only by the intriguing and less often told story of Alexander Hamilton, but also the story of its energetic and charismatic creator Lin Manuel Miranda. Throughout all the stories and interviews that I saw, there was a common theme, collaboration. Too create such a masterful piece of art that has touched so many people, it not only took the genius of Lin Manuel Miranda, but also his most trusted collaborators, Thomas Kail and Alex Lacamoire. Mr. Miranda thoroughly enjoys the moment when he introduces a new idea to his collaborators. He simply can't wait to hear how they will perceive it and take it in a completely new direction that he then can modify. So maybe Miranda captures the essence of collaboration best as he listens to his longtime colleagues talk about their approaches to the song "Satisfied," and then says with a laugh: "These are all the things I do not see when I write a song!" (Chicago Tribune, 2018)
Our experiences in the classroom can be just as life altering for our students and ourselves as teachers. One of my favorite exercises is to pose a teaching technique to teachers and then
ask them to think and share with their colleagues in small groups about how they might use it. It thrills me to listen to them bounce ideas off of each other and organically create a more focused and creative solution to the problems that we encounter each day. There is power in a team of professionals that trust each other enough to feel safe in a collaborative environment. When that level of trust and power has been reached together, you will never want to go back to the way it was before.
Shane Feely
Curriculum Coordinator & WECC Principal

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