The first reason is collaboration. To say I'm am a people person is an understatement of the first degree. To be honest, I love time away from people. Part of the joy I have as a teacher when I travel is that I get both. There are times when I will spend two or three days with no connection to the people I know and love beyond social media and cell phone--and I love that time. However, I couldn't work alone successfully...I need people.
I've said before that teaching is a solitary process and that is correct in the sense that you are the only adult in the room, usually. But you aren't alone and the collaborative process starts with me the kids.
This video is from a Cultural Anthropology class at K-State and I think can show that students want to be engaged and will be if we give them the chance.
Collaboration with Students
One of my first memories as a teacher is a lesson on monopolies. I had worked hard on the lesson and was completely prepared for the class. I was excited, interested and wanted to share this information. And as I presented the lesson, all of us wanted to find the fire alarm and pull it. The students were dutifully taking notes and I was dutifully putting information on the board. And yet... So I stopped the lecture and asked them how they were doing--a couple were honest and admitted that they felt the same way as me. At that point, I asked (more to myself than anyone else), "Okay, how can we teach this better" And they answered. We scrapped the whole lesson and we became partners in figuring it out. That sense of collaboration has been a benchmark in how I evaluate my teaching. Sometimes, lectures are the best way to get information out there, but I'm a better teacher when its a team approach.
Here is an interesting article on student -teacher collaboration
This spring saw one of my favorite moments as a teacher. We were studying Tinker v. Des Moines and we had done all the groundwork as a class. We had already wrested with a couple other cases to understand how the Supreme Court works and how a Justice works through the two sides. They had taken time to look at both sides of the case (armbands are protected expression under the First Amendment versus armbands are a distraction to learning and order in a school and so are not protected) and gather their thoughts. A thirty minute discussion (sometimes heated) ensued which was student driven but facilitated by me. My job was to make sure everyone had a voice and the discussion stayed on track. They were required to use the facts of the case only in voicing their opinions. It got loud and it got heated. But it was always on topic and I played both the arbiter and devils advocate.
This is a nice introduction to cross-curriculuar studies from Edutopia. What is interesting is that there aren't very many videos out there hightlighting teachers working together. A lot of what you get are clips from the movie "Bad Teacher." Hmmm....
Collaborating with Colleagues
I work with some of the finest teachers I know and I would be a fool to not want to collaborate. Sometimes its projects--the science, Spanish teacher and I are working together on exploring the Age of Exploration using celestial and land navigation, geography and foreign language cross-curriculum. We are experts in our fields but real life rarely differentiates between academic specialties--so we shouldn't either. Some of the best discussions I have had on the craft of teaching came in team time, between classes and casual discussions. Some of the best of the best of those discussion came when we were at odds with how to best serve a student or solve a problem. I love that my colleagues aren't afraid to disagree and expect the same of me. I have worked with a colleague who was not my cup of tea. They had an agenda and it often felt that their focus was on the agenda over the kids. They had a tendency to bully as a first resort and spent a lot of time targeting colleagues which the singular desire to make them feel small. That being said, I always appreciated that they would state their mind and had put enough thought in their position to be able to defend it. They would fearlessly swim upstream on an issue they felt strongly about. Its taken me a few years, but I have become more confident in that regard.
I travel a lot with teachers during the summer and would say that some of my best work as a teacher has come from discussions and partnerships with other history colleagues from across the country. These are not vacations. They take hours of preparation and the days are grueling. But to sit and have meal and a beer (and sometimes a cigar) and talk trade has been invaluable. They have been an invaluable resource during the school year as well. I need a video of the Four Freedoms speech. I sent out an all call and had the link I needed in minutes. They also offer a level of encouragement that's much needed. Some times you need to growl and gripe, bitch and complain outside of your territory and not within earshot of your community. That is a gift we offer each other.
There is also collaboration with parents and with outside organizations but those will have to wait for another post.