I always look forward to collaboration with my grade-level colleagues. Mostly I look forward to this collaboration because our overarching goal is the same which is to teach our seventy-five fifth graders with as much strength, compassion, care, and skill as possible. Our meetings focus in on how we can do this on our own and with each other. Our meetings don't focus on each other's challenges, but instead focus on our collective and individual capacity and how we use that to do the job well.
Collaboration that is less inviting is collaboration that doesn't share a common goal that's valued by all. Also collaboration that is not based on good research, effective effort, or good intent is also uninviting. Check-the-box collaboration which is doing it because it's prescribed but doesn't represent much value is also not welcome--we want to collaborate on issues and efforts that matter, not issues and efforts that we do just because we've always done them or because they look good. There's no gain in that other than possible political gain (which, I know, is needed at times, yet I find it difficult to impossible to commit to efforts for political reasons only).
Our collaborative time in schools is precious and we want that time to matter. We don't want to get together and then waste the time on efforts and strategies that are meaningless, redundant, not supported by effort, or ill directed, but instead we want to use that precious time in ways that matter.
As a collaborator that means that I too have to be thoughtful about how I contribute to and use that time. What comments are important, and what is best left unsaid?
Also as we think about good collaboration, we have to think about process. It's clear that teams everywhere are looking at ways that they can elevate their process to gain more effective collaboration and result. The use of technology can work well to aid this effort as technology can be used for the mundane and systematic aspects of collaboration, leaving more time for the deep conversations and good work possible with collaborative teams.
Collaboration matters a lot in schools. We do our best work when we collaborate well. Yet that collaboration has to be based on effective goals, process, and strategies--it can't be messy, thoughtless, or overly prescribed collaboration as that doesn't build the capacity possible.