Collaboration is great except that it often does not happen due to time constraints, or when it does happen, it involves teachers at the same school, teaching the same content, collaborating on curricula or assessments or, even,… analyzing student work using a common rubric!!!
When done well, school-based collaboration can be the backbone of school improvement. Even at the district level, where colleagues are collaborating on district implementation of the common core or preparing to align curricula to new state assessments, collaboration is essential.
But last week I had the chance to collaborate with colleagues from different districts, different states who were all teaching, or being trained to teach, the same subject matter. I attended the AP Government and Politics provided by the AP Summer Institute at Goucher College in Maryland. My facilitator was great, but this isn’t about her. The resources provided by the College Board (frequently one of the targets of my anti-privatization tirades) were also great, but this is not about that either.
I spent days learning from my colleagues. I learned so many new methods, saw so much creativity, and got to learn about how state-by-state, district-by-district, while the educational initiatives are similar, they are not the same. From those degrees of difference, real learning can happen. Where we were not all speaking the same “buzzy” language, real learning happened. Because in spite of both all the similarities and all the differences in education across our country, one thing is clear: Good teaching is good teaching. And with good teaching, good learning will happen because of, or in spite of, whatever initiative is a particular district- or state-led flavor of the week.
I realize that it is impractical to regularly allow teachers to collaborate across state and district lines. But I learned a tremendous amount about teaching from my out-of-district colleagues in a week’s time. Part of that is because we couldn’t talk district-specific jargon, couldn’t talk about specific acronyms that mean something only to us. We had to strip our language down, and thereby strip our thinking down, to teaching and learning.
Hardly rocket science, but important to share nonetheless.