Somewhere in our DNA, there may be a competitive gene. This gene may drive us to compete in ways that Darwin referred to as Natural Selection. This supposed gene may drive us to fight for our parents’ attention, fight for our teacher’s attention, and fight for our wife and husband. But somewhere along the line this gene drives us to adopt competitive strategies, that may not be so desirable, and that show up in business, school and life.
Teacher collaboration has often been mentioned in articles about good practice, but it is hard to drive the competitive gene out and allow the collaborative gene to work its magic. One source I read all the time is Edutopia and an article on teacher collaboration at a IB Magnet school caught my attention because it points to how teacher collaboration can create equality:
At Wildwood IB World Magnet School, teacher collaboration fosters a supportive professional culture, lessens teacher conflict, and provides students with schoolwide best practices.
Teacher Collaboration: Spreading Best Practices School-Wide (Transcript)
Karl: When we work together, we are able to create something great for our students. That collaboration creates an amazing school environment.
Mary Beth: One of the biggest challenges of any school is people go into their rooms and they close their doors and that’s the way teaching used to be, right? So you have to begin making it not okay to close your door.
Karl: So often we hold all the good things we do to ourselves because it becomes kind of like a competition.
Georgia: But when you’re able to collaborate with your colleagues, it really affects the students’ education.
I’m not sure we’re having the exact same idea.
Mary Beth: In terms of building a team, you have to think about where are the strengths.
Georgia: Our principal saw that I have this strength and he has that strength, so when she put us together, it was hard at first.
Okay, there are differences in opinion.
Karl: Yeah, big time.
The truth is, is that we didn’t really like each other.
Georgia: Because we were very different people, different styles.
Karl: But when we started working together, we were both passionate about working, we were both willing to put the time in.
Mary Beth: They started talking to each other. “Well, what text are you using? How are you making that connection? How are you going to run your writing conference?” IT was like the conversation of the month.
Karl: We’re both understanding that the main goal as a teacher is to get those students to learn.
Georgia: Okay, got it.
Karl: Got it?
Teacher collaboration at Wildwood is really intentional. In our schedule, when we have our preps, they’re aligned to each other.
Georgia: I wanted to also talk to you about our current budgeting activity. Do you think they’re ready to take a whole four day, three night vacation with the thousand dollar budget?
Karl: We didn’t do this last year as far as doing the activity. We did the questions, we did everything like that, but we didn’t do the activity.
Georgia: We didn’t prep them as much.
Karl: Right. That whole area in that project.
Georgia: They struggled.
Karl: Was what they struggled on.
Georgia: Remember, because last year we also had a few issues with the itemized lists, that they weren’t being specific enough with the costs.
Karl: What we can do to help them out with that is like every morning, we can have a little mini activity that will have budgeting that they have to do. Then moving on into the big activity, which is this vacation.
Georgia: Yeah, perfect, I like that, because it’s just a little bit, we’re building every day, so that’s a good idea.
That relationship, when you can bounce ideas off of each other, it’s to the benefit of the students.
Karl: We should be helping each other out and stop holding in all the things that we do great, and sharing it with others so that they can make those same gains within their classroom. And that’s really what’s important about it, is that the collaboration creates that equality for all students.
Teacher collaboration at Wildwood helps to diffuse conflicting adult dynamics, fosters a collaborative culture that puts the students’ learning first, and turns a teacher’s best practice into a schoolwide best practice.
Teacher collaboration is a top priority at Wildwood. Here is what works for them:
- Teachers share work products on a common drive.
- Teacher preparation time is aligned by grade level, creating grade-level teams.
- Protocols and agendas are set up to help conflicting personalities learn to appreciate each other and work well together.
“So often we hold all the good things we do to ourselves because it becomes kind of a like a competition,” says fourth-grade teacher Karl Wiedegreen. “We should be helping each other, and stop holding in all the things that we do great, and share it with others so that they can make those same gains within their classroom.”
See “How It’s Done” to learn how Wildwood makes teacher collaboration successful.