Thursday, March 7, 2013

Building a Collaborative Team

One of the joys of my job is teaching teachers how to utilize a variety of technology tools and applications.  The past few months, we have been focusing EdModo.  For those unfamiliar with Edmodo, it is Facebook for educators.   EdModo you make "connections" instead of "friends".  You also build you're learning community and not "catch up with others".   As we discuss this type of platform (this is my second school that I have lead this discussion), I reflect on collaborative teams and learning with and from others.

It is interesting to me to see how quickly and easily I can send out a question and get a response.  I also find I only get what I put into a site like this.  If I am a "lurker" or an "observer" I am able to see collaboration and discussion, but I am not a part of it.  I know that in the early part of my teaching career, this is how I felt in real world (not the virtual world).   Do we do enough talking and discussing with each other and not at each other?

Many of the team meetings that I was in as a teacher and now as an administrator, the facilitator or the team members gave out their information to the team and ask for little feedback or thoughts.  It was more of "I have the floor and I am going to say everything I need to say".  Many times upon reflection I would say, "Why not put that in an email, memo, or on the announcements?".

In the past couple years as a facilitator and a team member, I have attempted to gather input and feedback from others only to hear crickets..  Is this a product of what we know or is it easier to stand back and listen?  Are we worried about hurting each other's feeling?  Or is a matter of trust...if I say something to my administrator are they going to come down on me?

When we have the conversation of "things to think about, what if..., have you thought about...," we begin to create a school culture that values others opinions, we gain ownership in the decisions, and we become vested in the decision and not doing it because "we were told to do it".  This is not an easy, nor quick process.  It also requires a sense of professionalism and what's best for the school.  Educators tend to see criticism or questions, as a reflection on themselves or their worth and not as a way to make create the best solution.  Dr. Steven Covey speaks a lot about "seek to understand, before seeking to be understood" and if we seek to understand that we are in the business of student success then discussions become less personable and more productive and solutions oriented.