Thursday, November 03, 2005
Discovering the power of collaboration.
Learning to share with each other.
Slowly schools are rediscovering the power of collaboration, not only within a school, but more importantly between schools.
Collaboration between schools was not unknown before competition between schools became the norm in the 80s and 90s, as part of a ‘market forces’ self managing ideology.
Now there is a growing realization that ‘experts’ at the top can no longer solve particular problem and opportunities that schools have. Every school is different and each has their own particular circumstances and solutions. A ‘one size fits all’ mentality is no longer relevant
Collaboration is not as easy as it sounds as schools have often developed structures and mindsets that do not encourage sharing .As well, some people prefer to be left alone to do their own thing, while others don’t want to open their ideas up for perusal to others because they feel guilty that they are ‘not up with the play’. In some cases traditional school structures have not encouraged sharing or integration of knowledge. The latter is endemic in secondary schools but it can be found in all schools. I often observe schools where each classroom is so different you would wonder if they actually belong to one school. As someone once said, ‘Some schools are like 11 sole charges – all they share is the car park!’
Growing organizations thrive on relationships and conversations about what is important. From such interactions they develop a shared sense of direction and agree on ways to achieve their aspirations. And they are 'curious organisations' always on the alert for ways of how they can do things better. An aligned team open to new ideas has the best future strategy of all. And all needed be sweetness and light – creative conflict is a sign of a growing evolving organization.
Schools that don’t encourage such sharing are doomed to be left behind in an information age. The best sharing can be currently seen in the ICT clusters and I do know of groups of schools that are working together behind shared ideas. Where this clustering works well someone needs to keep everybody honest so they action what they have agreed to do.
Every school has people who are ‘idea hunters and sharers’ and they should be encouraged. Wise principals need to see teachers as important leaders in their own right and tap into their wisdom and expertise. As well, the school cultures should expect everyone to be able to demonstrate that they have implemented some new ideas as a normal part of their professionalism.
When people work well in teams then individuals gain the courage to try new things. When schools work together this also applies. Achievement develops not only confidence, self respect, and group well-being, but also the motivation to try new things.
The payoff for collaboration can be felt: higher energy, greater focus, better achievements, mutual respect and organizational trust, less stress and more fun!
Most of all it places the centre of innovation within and between schools built on what individual creative teachers have contributed for the common good of all.