Collaboration: thoughts


August 27, 2011 by k. liz

So . . . a common buzzword in education these days: collaboration. What is it? defines it:

collaborate: to work, one with another; cooperate

I’m quite perturbed by this whole phase of collaboration, to be honest. And, just to be up front and honest, I really don’t know how long this collaboration phase has lasted, since I was on the side of receiving collaboration had it existed just two short years ago. I have only been teaching for one year, and am about to start my second year, and just hear me out on the subject, please! I think that possibly some of my experiences and my own personality have given me a sour taste for collaboration, and maybe one of you can help correct that.

Now, to start off – I understand why collaboration is an important concept in education, and I am not anti-collaboration. However, I’m not quite sure that I would say that I am pro-collaboration either. I understand that it makes a load of sense for teachers to work together and share resources, and I will be the first to say that I have hugely benefited from teachers on twitter and blogs sharing their ideas and resources with me. It has been great for helping me to develop as a teacher to be able to go to other teachers and ask for their thoughts and comments on things. I am all for teachers being willing to share and work together and share the load.

However, this is where I get stuck. I’m a super independent person. And in all honesty, I don’t feel like I am teaching if I take someone else’s lesson plan and teach it. I don’t like taking someone else’s creation and using it as my own when I am perfectly capable of making my own. I’m also somewhat of a perfectionist. I have a hard time taking someone else’s powerpoint that is not done in my style or to my liking, or still has the text boxes outlined on each screen. Call me picky, but I know what I like, and that is what I want to use in the classroom. So, I really don’t like being boxed in to a certain activity or a certain handout when I could in a few minutes create my own, or find my own activity that I would be able to personalize, own, and then use successfully in the classroom.

Now, my own personal story as to the problem of collaboration is that this year, I am teaching in a kindergarten section of a private school. (This is not totally certain yet, I have yet to discern if we are collaborating lesson plans or just units.) There are 7 kindergarten classes. I am teaching six year old students, and there are two other six year old classes. That is great, but when it comes to planning, neither of the other teachers speak English. That is not a problem for me, but what becomes a problem is when I am expected to teach the same lessons in English that they are teaching in Turkish. In my opinion, some things will of necessity have to be different in my classroom as I will have to gauge understanding and progress in completely different ways. I don’t feel comfortable having someone else plan for me, and then going in and teaching their lesson.

To me, being a teacher is awesome because it is a skill and everyone is going to do it a little differently. Teaching is an art. I can’t teach the same as you, or your friend, or your friend’s friend. I teach the way I teach. And when you try to change that, I am going to become uncomfortable because I am working outside of my skill. Collaboration is great – share ideas, share workloads if you are comfortable with that . . . but I don’t think that we should ever force sharing on teachers.

What do you think? Am I way off on this one?


3 thoughts on “Collaboration: thoughts

  1. Sarah says:

    I see a greater need for collaboration in analyzing students ABOVE sharing lesson plans. I, too, benefit from the many great ideas that are out there–I’m just creative enough to take someone else’s idea and make it my own. I also don’t do as well being handed someone else’s plan and just doing it. But back to my first statement, that’s why I think collaboration over student needs and student data is much more valuable. Sometimes it just takes getting that fresh set of eyes looking at test scores or ears listening to student complexities to help me find a solution. Our PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) are more geared toward students, not teachers. And I think it’s working.

    • k. liz says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for the comment. I agree with your conclusions about collaboration. I think it is better to come together and brainstorm about the best methods or what teachers are observing in their classes, and some general direction, but I would so much rather do my own lesson planning! What setting are you teaching in right now?

      Glad to have you along for the journey!

  2. Sarah says:

    I spent the last four years in an elementary ESL classroom (now officially “EL” classrooms) in Indiana. Kind of your neighbor! Now I’m the Title I Parent Liason and EL Coach for our rural district. (It’s quite part-time; I just had a son and am mostly staying home with him!) Always looking for things to share with my teachers.

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