Imagine that project you have been dreaming of doing for years was about to come true, but you only had to plan a fraction of it?  I read a few articles recently about the power of collaboration in business and in education. One article in Forbes explored previous practices of competition in the workplace where the norm was to “step on your competition” to climb the ladder.  The other article from the Teaching Channel gave a few tips to collaboration in education, including building relationships with other teachers, finding time to collaborate, and sharing responsibly.  Industry today is moving more toward a collaboration mentality where the whole of the business is greater than the sum of the parts. The same is becoming more true in education as teachers find themselves connecting on social media.  But what if we took it a bit further?

I have the extreme privilege of working at a school that values collaboration.  In fact, most teachers at my school are given time during the school day dedicated to team planning and collaboration.  It is not only encouraged, but a required element of the way we do things. These teachers don’t just collaborate on a weekly basis as in many schools around the country, many collaborate daily.  This ‘team time’ is not just for teachers who teach the same subjects, but also for cross-curricular collaborations where teachers can discuss on the needs of the students they teach together. When we work together, we bring more to the table than if we work alone.  I am a huge proponent of making time for collaboration and would love to see more schools adopt this method.

Even if you don’t have a dedicated collaboration time, there are still many ways to collaborate with others within your school, community, or on a global level.  The article in Forbes had some tips that were catered toward the business world, so I thought I would share some strategies to begin your collaboration network in education.

  1.  Decide to collaborate.  The moment you express your interest to seek a partner to plan or design that project is the first step toward becoming a collaboration guru!  You will never be able to collaborate unless you put yourself out there.  
  2. Ask your Principal if they know someone who would be willing to collaborate with you on your project/idea.  They have the pulse of the school and may know someone you can reach out to within your school or district.
  3. Ask your teacher friends at your school.  Working with someone you already have a relationship with is a great first step.  There are people in your school who want to collaborate with someone just like you and you will never know unless you ask.
  4. Join a Global PLN!  Social media is the fastest way to global collaboration.  I am a big fan of Twitter, and the best way to get started on social media is to follow other educators.  Follow people you know and people you don’t. Post your collaboration desires on social media using as many related hashtags as possible.  Teach Thought has a list of the top 20 educational hashtags here.
  5. Observe other teachers! Through observing other teachers, you may find the perfect collaboration candidate!  Observing can also generate new ideas and improve your own reflection processes.  

What does that amazing project mentioned earlier have to do with collaboration?  That amazing project you feel like you don’t have time for has probably been in another teacher’s dreams as well.  Collaboration can help you make that dream a reality. Becoming a master collaborator is as easy as asking a question.  If at first you don’t succeed, try again! There have been many times when collaboration did not always work out for me.  I never let that hold me back from future collaborations. At the beginning of the school year, as I was preparing for my new role, I needed some help from someone with experience in robotics on the elementary level.  I posted a question on social media and within five minutes, I was on the phone with an expert from all the way across the state. I got so many new ideas and learned from someone with years of experience.   

Making time for collaboration can be “vital to your success” as Nadidah Coveney exclaims in the Forbes article (2017).   The expectations set on teachers today can be overwhelming and stressful. Work smarter with collaboration.