In the Spirit of the Season – Collaborate

In the Spirit of the Season – Collaborate

The following is a post by Becky St. Onge who is a fellow collaborator and learner.

Aesop proclaimed “In union there is strength.” Margaret Meade said we should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Vince Lombardi maintained that “individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” For centuries the message has been repeated. Human nature dictates that communities are more successful when their inhabitants work together. The benefits of collaboration far outweigh individual efforts, yet there still so many educators reluctant to share their ideas. Why is this so?

I’ve spent the first few months of my new job, in a new school district trying to answer that question for myself. As I navigate my way through this unfamiliar social climate, the individual personality that each and every school building possesses, I’ve made a few observations. Some educators are afraid. They fear others may criticize how they do things in their classroom. Some educators are overwhelmed. They want to do so much for their students and they are so limited by the restrictions of the curriculum that their expectations always outweigh their time. Still there are educators who want to get all the credit, just in case there is some greater benefit to be reaped from their actions, as if the act of educating the future of America simply isn’t enough. I sometimes feel like they’re “double dipping”, waiting for the next, best thing. It’s futile to attempt to convince this personality type into working on a project together. This I know is true: their behavior is nothing personal. It’s something that those who choose to work independently from the rest of us have to figure out for themselves. Sometime I feel like Cher in Moonstruck. I want to tell them to “snap out of it!” They don’t see what they’re missing and what they stand to gain from the practice of collaborating.

Admittedly, I’m a bit melancholy from my inaugural experience in the school district where I previously worked. I’m simply having growing pains. I was blessed to be surrounded by the most incredible group of people who took pride in their work and wanted to share it with others. We’d huddle around the table at lunch and share ideas, e-mail lessons back and forth looking for input from multiple sets of eyes and commiserating when time was short and deadlines were looming. Mostly I think we pushed each other to do our best and to be our best, for our students and for each other. I enjoyed reflecting back on each day, happy in the knowledge that not only had I benefited those I worked but that I had learned something new.

Mulling over the observations that I’ve made, and if I’ve truly learned from my past, I understand that it’s up to me to carry the torch. I need to emerge as a leader of sorts, one who leads by example. Someone who seeks out those who learn the same way I do: by giving, sharing, collaborating. Surely I can find others of “my kind”. This isn’t a post-Apocalyptic experience. Together we’ll follow the paradigm shift, part of a new generation of educators. A generation better equipped to teach our students and one another by example. Together we will forge ahead.

One unknown author stated it best: “It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. “

2 thoughts on “In the Spirit of the Season – Collaborate

  1. Becky, I feel your pain! 🙂 I came from the business world, so with no education experience, I really had no idea what to expect. I was amazed at how little was shared by teachers, even amongst those in their own departments. Slowly though, over the past 3 1/2 years, I’ve been able to chip away at that ice and people are beginning to warm up and understand the power of sharing and collaboration. I spoke to some math teachers about rubrics using a pbwiki. One of the math teachers loved it so much that she created a math department wiki (http://citrusmath.pbwiki.com). She is so excited about it, the entire math department is on board, and administration is excited about the possibilities for other departments as well. It was a HUGE boost for me because I’ve pulled out a few handfuls of hair dealing with the me-me attitudes over the past few years. It’ll happen…just not perhaps as quickly as you’d like.

  2. What a great post! I am coming to the final semester of my college experience and I have reaped so many rewards from the process of collaborating. I have learned just as much from my peers as I have from my professors. I learned most in my student teaching placement when I was working alongside my mentor teacher – not in the back of the classroom observing or in front of the classroom performing.

    One of the overarching themes I’m picking up in my study of educational technology is technology is all about connections and collaboration – just like my ideal classroom! I really hope all my experiences where I’ve had the chance to develop through collaboration don’t come to an end when I graduate. What a loss that would be for me, professionally!

    Your final quote reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite television shows, The Shield. A detective fed up with the politics and infighting in her department hands over all her information on a kidnapping case to the captain, who simply signs all the necessary orders and is considered the mastermind hero of the day. When her partner asks her why she did that, why she let the captain take all the credit for her case she simply remarked before the episode closed, “Credit is overrated.”

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