These words by notable educator Chris Lehmann and co-author of Building 2.0, Zac Chase, capsulate why our efforts to work together matter:
"Teaching is not an individual affair. . .Teachers are better when they work collaboratively, but even more than that, teachers teach better and students learn more when the school has a vision that actually means something and a plan to make that vision a reality." "We need to figure out how to build systems and structures that allow good people of honest intent to do great things together." "People work best in service of something that they can believe in, when there is a pathway toward excellence and they can collaborate."
Also, as noted in Gary Gruber's book, Seven Decades: A Learning Memoir, about his life as an educator, collaboration matters greatly with regard to the work we do:
"If we are to succeed in our schools, and elsewhere in our country, we must learn how to build collaborative energy, listen carefully to what is and what is not being said, ask questions that are penetrating and honest, discern the real from the superficial, and help a group move forward with a purposeful, shared vision."
As we embark on 2016, and with the words of Gruber, Chase, and Lehmann in mind, I recognize that our work to develop our model lies in the depth and breadth of the work we do with and for students. That work can be evaluated with the following questions, questions mainly culled from Lehmann and Chase's book, Building School 2.0.
Teach Children Well: Student-Centered, Collaborative Environment
Collaborate and Teach with Honor and Equity
As educators, do we do all we can to teach every child well? How does our shared practice honor those we partner with including students, colleagues, leaders, families, and community members? How do we ensure that our practice, routines, structure and schools are focused on what students need to succeed as learners and citizens? Do we foster equitable practice with regard to the needs of our diverse teaching/learning populations?
Meaningful, Effective Programs
Project Based Environment
Where do we embed project/problem base learning to foster student success?
Where is our current structure working well and where can we change structure to improve what we can do for children? Do we use our spaces effectively so that school is essentially a "home away from home."
Learning Beyond the Four Walls
How do you and your colleagues promote learning beyond the four walls of a classroom?
How can we minimize and streamline administrative tasks leaving more time for teaching and learning?
Meaningful Educational Experiences
How do we ensure that students' educational experiences are meaningful?When and how do we give students the opportunity to solve meaningful problems?
Do we foster citizenship in our classrooms, shared teaching model, and school?
When and how do we make time for fun!
Collaboration with the Learning Team: Students, Families, Colleagues, Leaders, and Community Members
Parents and Families
Do we make good time and attention for collaboration with students' families?
How do we collaborate effectively with colleagues so that we are providing a responsive, caring, and effective teaching/learning program for children?
Are our collegial conversations question-driven?
How do we promote attitudes and action that demonstrate we are "one school?"
Vision and Professional Learning
How are we evolving our practice, classrooms, shared model, schools, and educational organizations in ways that result in effective, collaborative learning/teaching environments?
How do we create and enact vision in our practice, team model, schools, and systems?
Blend Theory and Practice
How do we blend theory and practice to best teach students?
What kind of professional learning can we access to better the teaching and learning we do?
In what ways do we make time for regular reflection?
How do we utilize technology to deepen and broaden the learning/teaching we do?