Some days I feel like Sisyphus, carrying the same basket of laundry upstairs just to have it end up downstairs to be washed, or picking up toys just to have them appear on the floor as if a godly punishment for hubris. Again and again, day in and day out. Some days are better than others. However, this week, it was especially Sisyphistic.
Yep, that’s right. I just used that adjective. Check it out on Google in a month and see if it has caught on with the teenagers, “Hey Jennifer, you are looking totally Sisyphistic with your physics textbook.”
Anyway, I do have a point. And an education point at that. It goes like this . . .
I am currently on sabbatical from teaching. I want to spend time deep in the daily life of my children at this stage of their lives. However, this sabbatical comes with its fair share of boulders to push. It’s tough to do the stay-at-home thing by yourself. It is lonely and often does not ever seem to improve. In this way it is like teaching.
Teaching is a lonely profession where we often are pushing boulders. Compounding this is the fact that we rarely meet with colleagues in deep, meaningful collaboration to find ways to deal with the boulders.
In a collaborative model, teachers can impact student learning by analyzing student work and setting goals; thinking through lesson designs; interpreting data; or sharing education philosophy. It’s the old adage, Two Heads are Better than One.
Yet, for all of its benefit, collaboration seems to run against the norms of a school system. A system where closed rooms and small spaces; a scheduling system that does not allow classes or teachers to meet; individual teaching styles and agendas; and preteaching coursework focuses on the individual teacher are the norms. And with a greater number of tasks being added to the school day by outside interests, there seems little chance that working collaboratively will occur.
However, if our students are to improve, collaboration must occur.
The two greatest barriers to collaboration are lack of time and training. As I can attest, you cannot just put two people together and call it collaboration. If you are lucky, it works. More often, it is a superficial use of term collaboration which only looks the part on the master scheduling board in the principal’s office. It takes time to create the collaborative culture in a school. In addition, it takes training to equip teachers with the skills necessary to work as a collaborative team. The teaming teachers need to figure out how the rhythm of instruction will play out. They need to learn how to work together after working in isolation for so long.
The benefits of collaboration outweigh any initial uneasiness to sharing space, skills, and time. I have had two collaborative situations in my seven teaching positions and it did make a difference in the learning of my students. The invigoration of students taking charge of their learning and being successful offset any extra time, and in the end, it took less time in a collaborative model because more teachers shouldered the boulders.
So what can we do? Act. It is said that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago; the second best time is today so let’s plant some trees. Strengthen your teaching and find a way to collaborate. Start small and begin by sharing ideas with a fellow teacher. Hopefully, you can take this partnership and create a foundation for a collaborative model because, after all, it is all about the success of students.
What collaboration insights do you have?