Let’s not fool ourselves: it can be difficult to find the time to collaborate with others about our work. I was part of a pretty tight group of graduate students in the reading program at UNH a couple of years ago, and we swore to each other that we would keep in touch and regularly meet to discuss our work. Guess how many times that has happened in the past two years (yep–zero).
What can you do? Our lives are busy. However, I have learned that it is IMPERATIVE to find a way to collaborate with others. I don’t care what anyone says: one cannot teach (or coach) in a vacuum. I am lucky that the teachers at my school collaborate on a regular basis–more than any I have ever worked with, and I have worked with dozens of teachers over the past ten years. They not only collaborate on an informal basis, as many teachers do, but they also hold regular meetings during which they collaborate. Currently I am involved in two of these collaborations: one is in regard to the Daily 5 model of literacy instruction, and the other is a group that meets monthly with Tomasen Carey as part of the Learning Through Teaching program (for which we do not get credit, because–surprise!–the money ran out).
Lest you think I am a model of collaboration, I will also take a moment to point out that I am also part of a group of literacy specialists within the district that meets once a month to “collaborate.” While this sounds all well and good, quite honestly it is a huge waste of time. It would be more honorable and honest to call what we do each month a venting session, as that seems to be the primary objective (so it seems to me) of each meeting–to vent for approximately one hour. Luckily, I am often double-booked during this monthly meeting time and occasionally use as an excuse to save my venting energy for my long-suffering husband.
The moral is, I always walk away from truly collaborative conversations with a renewed energy and new, practical ideas for teaching and collaborating with teachers. One recent gem I gained from a conversation I had with a family member, who works as an RTI coach in a district in Massachusetts, was her advice to help teachers “work smarter” as opposed to working harder. I thought that was a brilliant way to frame what it is she and I both do–and I am excited to frame it in that way for the teachers I work with who are already working as hard as they possible can. This blog, too, is my way of collaborating with others. I am hoping it becomes a useful tool for all of us. So remember:
COLLABORATION = GOOD VACUUM = BAD