In reflecting on this well known quote by Helen Keller, I am reminded of a few simple truths about life- it’s important to set and pursue goals that are meaningful and challenging yet within reach, to fully engage despite barriers, and to value teamwork.
With the start of the new year, come many pledges to try more, do more, be more. Many public school teachers today feel that they are already overextended and cannot possibly complete any additional tasks or consider one more change. The new year is the perfect time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not, renew your commitment to a continuous cycle of improvement, and refresh your list of personal and professional goals.
As I visit classrooms and schools across the district, I see multiple examples of professional collaboration. Teachers meet together frequently in grade level meetings, faculty meetings, data meetings and building based curriculum meetings. Some teachers meet voluntarily during lunch periods, breaks or after school to share ideas, materials and resources. Meeting outputs often include shared key decisions such as the pacing of lessons, collaborative units of study in Rubicon Atlas, or common assessments to be used across a grade level or department. All of these tasks are time and labor intensive, and speak to the quote “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
A shared sense of responsibility in reaching a goal can motivate individuals to extend that extra little bit of effort, bring the target closer in a shorter time frame, and foster the belief that success is possible with collective effort.
Let’s extend this thinking to the lessons we design for our students. What opportunities do our students have in the classroom to collectively establish meaningful goals, engage in team-based problem solving, and self-assess/reflect on progress made toward meeting established criteria? Several studies of effective teaching practices by researcher John Hattie indicate involving students in these activities is powerful and can markedly improve achievement. Check out the resources below and give it a try!
Collaboration Strategies in the Classroom
What Works Best in Education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise, John Hattie 2015 https://www.pearson.com/content/dam/corporate/global/pearson-dot-com/files/hattie/150526_ExpertiseWEB_V1.pdf
Unleashing the Power of Teacher Collaboration,
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation K-12 Education
The Power of Student-Driven Learning: Shelley Wright at TEDxWestVancouverED