Sorry for the digression. Obviously, if you've read any of my blog (or Cheryl's), before, you know that collaboration in its purest, non-transactional form, is the cornerstone of our practice. We'd never want to stop.
However, there seem to be a few reasons we don't collaborate as a general rule. The first two are obvious; the third, perhaps less so.
The first reason teachers don't collaborate is the culture of competition we have in our schools. We want everyone to do well, but just a little less well than us. We forget that we're talking about students here, not numbers on a page. The second reason, and the one everyone gives when asked why they don't collaborate more often, is time. Many teachers are set in their ways, many have small children, many have hundreds of other responsibilities, and collaboration just seems like another item to add to the list.
It's not; it's critical for professional growth and personal sanity. But that, again, is a different thread for a different time (though it's one that Cheryl addresses in 90% of the blogs she writes).
My concern here is with the third reason people don't collaborate. This reason is perhaps the most insidious of the three, because it's not a reason we can get rid of via external means, like eliminating standardized tests or giving teachers an extra hour of planning time a day.
The reason that underlies so much of the non-collaborative spirit we see in schools today is that we don't think our ideas are good enough. We don't want to share because we're afraid of being mocked, or being told we're doing it wrong, or people suggesting "improvements" to something we thought we'd perfected.
I am certainly guilty of this. I share the class difficulties I face with Cheryl and the other members of the #CoFlip Collective (hereafter #TheCFC), but as for sharing things here, with the larger educational world...I definitely hold back. I hope that the result of this withholding isn't that everyone who reads my blog thinking I have all my class stuff perfectly together. I don't. (Nor does anyone.)
Education is messy. That's why this blog is called Concerted Chaos. There is a point to what we do in class, sure, but we aren't dealing with little automatons. We teach and learn with real people. It's chaotic.
I think it's important to share the struggles we all have during our school days. Other teachers need to see the mess-- one of the most dangerous trains of thought for any teacher is "It's only me that's having this problem, and it's my fault." Actually, it's probably not your fault, and you're DEFINITELY not the only one experiencing that problem.
True collaboration is an art form--it requires us to be vulnerable, to say, "What about this?" without fear of being shot down immediately. We need to have safe spaces to say what we really think, and have real practitioners offer real solutions. That's what collaboration has given me. It took me a long time to trust my own voice in our collaborative partnership. I have realized, though, that I can't withhold my ideas, no matter how terrible I think they are, or how badly I think they reflect on my classroom.
Those bad ideas may not be bad at all. And they very well might be the seeds of far greater things to come.
To that end, #TheCFC will be introducing (in the next month or so--stay tuned for specifics!) the Flipped Learning Journal, an online collection of the best ideas regarding the Collaborative Flip. Our intent is that this will become a place much like English Journal is for NCTE/English teachers, where we publish concrete, nuts-and-bolts, this-is-how-you-do-this-in-real-classrooms types of articles. Also in the works, to go along with the FLJ, is a vodcast through which you will get to tour actual live flipped classrooms and see how they really work in the real world.
We're very excited about this-- we're certainly not perfect, but we have some ideas. It'll be cool for everyone to see what they look like where the rubber meets the road.