Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lessons from the Limb #9: Our Collaboration

People often ask us how our partnership works and why it works so well.  They see us collaborating and automatically assume it works because we are friends or because “we live at work.”  While it doesn’t hurt to wake up and work with a good friend, someone you admire, someone who inspires you to do more, someone who pushes you...contrary to popular belief, friendship has nothing to do with it.  We work because who chose to enter into this partnership together.  More importantly, our partnership works because we work hard to make it work.  Recently KM attended a meeting and was presented with an interesting visual about collaborative teaching which we feel sums up the inner layers of our collaborative relationship:
Image taken from Daniel Wilson's presentation in the Learning Environments for Tomorrow presentation at Harvard (April 2012).
So let's breakdown each of these four layers and by the end of this collaboration expose, the secrets of our inner workings will be unveiled for the masses.  So with out further ado:

Layer 1.  Communication.  At the base of any healthy relationship is open and honest communication.  One of the reasons why we work is that we are open with each other.  We give each other feedback, we share ideas and pedagogical knowledge, we challenge each other and we give each other compliments.  While compliments are always nice, we also don’t hesitate to challenge each other to make sure the decisions we are making are aligning with our collective goals.  It’s never personal because at the end of the day we believe in each other and trust and respect each other.  To make sure we are always checking in with each other, we have a before school check in where we go over any big things for the day and an after school check in where we reflect on the day and make preparations for the next day.  When there is a breakdown in communication, there will likely be a breakdown in collaboration.    Sometimes that happens.  We are not perfect.  Sometimes we fight.  Nothing makes the collaboration crunchier as when there is a chink in a partnership’s communication.   

Layer 2.  Coordination.  While we were used to being the queens of our own classrooms, it was an adjustment to figure out how to rule our joint court.  There were some tough times where we tried to assert our dominance over each other.  For a collaboration to be successful, you can’t have two queens fighting for one throne.  We have found the most success in recognizing and utilizing each of our strengths and then using them to build each other up.  

"All ways here are our ways," said the Queens of Hearts.
Layer 3.  Cooperation.  Once our communication was solid, we had to make sure we were speaking the same language.  Before we started down this road of collaboration, we sat down and aligned our vision and philosophies.  You could have exceptional communication and be the best of friends, but if you don’t stand for the same things then…well….you’re heading for a hot mess.   Seriously.  It’s just like living with a friend.  Good friends don’t necessarily make good roommates.  Good friends don’t necessarily make good teaching partners.   Collaborative relationships require more than friendship and a shared love of rubrics.  You both have to be committed to pursuing the same goals and vision.  We work because each day we bring our A-game and it’s not about who thought of what or who gets credit for what, its about supporting each other to realize our vision for our students and their families.

Layer 4.  Collaboration.  When all the C’s combine, you have Captain Collaboration (cue Captain Planet theme song).  At the heart of all the four C’s lies collaboration.  When there is open and honest communication, you are both committed to the same goals, and you both work together to rule your domain, you have true collaboration.  Collaboration isn’t just about being in the same room together; it’s more about how you work together.  It is about you and your partner bringing ideas to the table to discuss and together turning them into something better than what you each could have created alone.  Our collaboration works because we are constantly reflecting, planning, brainstorming, nit-picking, revising, and reshaping our new normal together one day at a time.

So the FLY AWAY here is that just like any relationship, you get out of it what you put in.  You don’t have to be friends to have a successful collaborative partnership.  For goodness sakes you don’t have to “live at school.”  You just both have to want to be there and commit to each other and your shared goals.  If you end up becoming friends as a result of the experience, well we ain’t mad at ya. 

From the limb,

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