So I was walking down the hallway this past Thursday on the way back to my office when I passed by a group of students working together outside of the library. I stopped, turned around, and went over to hear what they were discussing, and as I was sitting down, one of the students said, “you know what Mr. Kerr, when we work by ourselves we’re pretty smart, but when we work together we are way, way smarter”. After about 10 minutes of listening to them share ideas, defend their thinking, ask thoughtful and clarifying questions, and eventually come up with several different solutions to a problem, I walked away thinking about what that student had said, and about the whole notion and power of collaboration.
The following day I decided to look for and track all the ways that we work together in schools as students and as professionals, and honestly, I lost count before noon. It started first thing in the morning as I watched kids on the playground working together in teams all over the place, solving problems and playing games. Then I saw it in classrooms during our morning meetings as kids shared ideas, and built trust and made collective plans for the day. As the morning went on I saw group math stations and book club conversations, and strategy groups and peer sharing and editing in writer’s workshop, and team building and strategizing in PE, and group presentations in French…it was everywhere! Kids learning with and from each other…together…sharing and teaching, and gathering and considering perspectives other than their own. It was beautiful to watch.
It didn’t stop there though, as I saw teachers co-teaching and co-planning, meeting in teams to create assessments and lessons and units, looking at student work and analyzing student data, presenting to each other and coaching each other, and using each other as thought partners…again, it was everywhere that I looked! Collaboration builds those critical life skills, which are so necessary for all of us to be successful in today’s world…kids and adults..both in our professional lives and in our lives outside of work. Skills like active listening, analyzing, brainstorming solutions to problems, critical thinking, building consensus and compromising, embracing mistake making, trust building, respect, being open to new and opposing ideas, conflict resolution, self advocacy, leadership, and so much more.
Working together in groups and in teams really does make us better, and giving these opportunities to our students, and to each other as colleagues is key. All that said, I do recognize and understand the importance of being able to do work on your own as well, and to have that time to write, read, think and create all by yourself…I really do value that time. There is however a power in collaboration, that does enhance the learning experience for all of us I think. I believe in that old idiom, strength in numbers, and like that student so confidently stated, working together really does make us way, way smarter. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team – John Wooden
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