The Importance of a Collaborative Environment

When I first started teaching in 2006, I was met with an English Department of about 25. As you all know, being a new teacher can be daunting, but that feeling is multiplied when you are a replacement halfway through the year. I figured that I would be able to meet with the other English teachers and collaborate, similarly to how you do in college.

The first mandated collaborative meeting for our department happened every Wednesday right after school. The first went something like this . . .

Veteran teacher #1: We do it like this because it’s right. I’m not changing it.
Veteran teacher #2: Yeah. There is no point in reinventing the wheel!
Me: Would you mind explaining the standards we are covering so I can make sure I am doing it right?
Veteran teacher #3: Just read the lesson plan. You can figure it out.

The second, third, fourth meetings went similarly. It was not until I was there about a month that I was able to discover two other teachers who were willing to collaborate and agreed with my conclusion that the statement “not reinventing the wheel” was usually uttered when someone felt like being lazy and just wanted to get by.

I thank those two teachers everyday for helping me through that first year and doing what they could to help me be a decent teacher.

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I like to think that I am always willing to collaborate or answer other teacher’s questions about a plethora of topics. But, that’s probably not true. I’m sure there have been occasions that I have been wrapped up and not been able to help the way that I would like to. But, I try.

I mean, if someone had not helped me with collaboration, then I probably would be about two years behind where I am now.

Do I always have the correct answers? No. Could my answers be totally and utterly wrong? Yes. Do I appreciate it when someone corrects me so that I am able to better do my job? Absolutely. Does this cause me anxiety and worry? Sometimes.

But it’s ok. I am human. Crystal Kirsh said it best when she said “I don’t know everything (not even close), I never will, and I can admit that openly.”

But like her and so many others, they are willing to take that leap and be vulnerable.

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For those who are not collaborating, I implore you to do so. For those of you who see no value in collaboration, I urge you to rethink. For those of you wondering where to do that, here are some places to start –

1. My blogroll has four others who are collaborating across the Internet. Take a look at their dialogue.
2. Sign up for Edmodo. Browse the different communities that already exist and start your own based on your niche.
3. Ask to be invited to ongoing collaborative groups. Can an extra brain and set of skills damage the dialogue? I don’t think so.
4. Checkout hashtags on Twitter that are related to your subject area. #language arts, #ELAFlip, #flipclass . . . the list goes on
5. Google! You will find communities dedicated to the questions you need answer. If not, reply to this blog and hopefully someone will be able to help you.
6. Enroll in the Flipped Network.

But, remember, this is not a competition and at the end of the day, we must be able to do what is best for our students. We should be in the business of helping each other and not in the business of holding our best kept secrets to ourselves. Collaboration is an all-inclusive operation and loses its power when it becomes exclusionary.

I am now stepping off my soapbox. I don’t remember where this came from, but I feel better now.

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  • Comments (2)
  1. HI Matt,

    Important blog post. Collaboration & teamwork are vital to education. My classroom is focused on cooperative learning & the internet obviously is a platform for teachers to collaborate. Are you on twitter? I’ve sent you a connection request on Edmodo. And, you can follow my blog at
    http://kbakerbyodlit.blogspot.com

  2. Thank you for talking about the importance of collaboration.
    English Companion Ning by Jim Burke is a noncompetitive environment.

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