Sunday, March 23, 2014

Collaborate to Make a Difference

Those of you who know me, you know I like to discuss my belief in the 4 Cs to Lead.  The 4 Cs consist of connecting, collaboration, confidence, and creativity.  The 4 Cs are necessary traits for all successful leaders in any organizational leadership position, including leadership positions in education.  The 4 Cs build off of each other and when done well, create teachers & administrators who are change agents in their respective buildings.

Connecting is the most important “C” needed to grow as a professional.  I recently blogged about connecting and how relatively easy it is to do.  Connecting leads to collaboration.  Collaboration is equally important as connecting, but collaboration can positively affect the culture of a building or team in a more meaningful way.  I will share some of the ways you can effectively use collaboration in any environment (business, schools, classrooms, teams) to make a difference:

Sharing & Caring
In the New Lexington City School District, each building has a 30 minute Collaboration Time for teachers every day.  At NLHS, we meet in the morning before the school day begins with students.  We meet in Teacher Based Teams (TBT) based on content.  The Unified Arts classes meet in a group and our Agriculture classes also meet in their own group.  We have met in Grade Level teams and Advisory Teams too.  The meetings are structured with agendas and minutes.  Each TBT has a leader who is the lead facilitator for the group. 

In the meetings, teachers have the opportunity to discuss yearly & quarterly data, best instructional practices (we focus on best formative practices with data to back up the practices), and most importantly, are given the opportunity to discuss kids.  The meetings can be set up how the teachers’ feel would be most beneficial.  I would like to use the meetings (maybe once a week) as an opportunity to do a “20% Time” much like Google has in their corporate offices.  Give teachers the opportunity to create something or work on a project or product that interests them. 

We have had great success with our Collaboration Time.  Teachers have the opportunity to talk about their craft, practices that work and practices that don’t work, and focus on data that can be used effectively to facilitate learning.  The key is to have great teacher leaders on each of your teams.  When the leaders structure their meetings and have high expectations, the Collaboration Time is a success for teachers.  In the end, the students are the ones who win.

Watch Others Teach/Lead
Collaboration and feedback go hand-in-hand with each other.  Feedback is crucial to getting better in anything that you do.  Sharing feedback as a group or in a pairing is the best type of constructive feedback.  If you watch others teach, coach or lead, you can learn as an observer and visualize yourself and the practices in your position.  When observing others, make sure you supply good feedback.  Supply the feedback like you would for a student on an assessment.  Administrators and leaders need to encourage staff members to observe each other.  Share these experiences during staff meetings.  At NLHS, one of our goals during the 4th Quarter will be to have all of our teachers observe another teacher at least once.

Model for Students
If a staff collaborates, students take notice.  They don’t have to be in meetings to see this.  When a staff works and shares together, the culture of the building will be a model of collaboration.  Teachers and Coaches need to model the effective use of collaboration and allow students and athletes to use collaboration.  In the classroom, have the resources necessary for students to collaborate.  At NLHS, we use our 1:1 initiative as collaboration tools.  We also use Quality Learning tools in classes to solve problems and create solutions.  Students can also demonstrate different forms of mastery for projects and assessments when they collaborate.  From videos to gallery walks, model collaboration so your students will collaborate too.

Find a Way to Make Time
It is imperative to find a way to make time to collaborate.  Maybe having someone record thoughts and discussion at lunch, and then share at the end of the week.  Try having your teachers have matching Prep periods so they can meet.  Use Staff Meetings as a time for collaboration.  Try to make it the norm to do more and meet more.  Start by having your staff brainstorm on ways they can meet more often to collaborate.

Our jobs have lasting effects in our buildings and on our teams.  Often times, one thing leads to another, and another, etc.  Collaboration can help with this.  Create more collaborative opportunities in your building and classroom so everyone in your building (teachers and students) are leaders.  Use the 4 Cs to Lead to create a building of connected collaborators.  As Dan Rockwell states, “Collaborating elevates everyone’s status. It says you matter. People participate when their participation matters.”

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