I just finished up a mini-unit on John Brown. It was for one of my library classes. The assignment required us to work with a random partner.
It was the most fun I’ve had in a while.
I used to collaborate a lot. At my first school, I was part of a five-member team that co-planned, co-taught, and co-assessed an American Studies program. We worked a little too much, but it was among the best and most creative work that I’ve done as a teacher.
I love my current school, but lately, there haven’t been too many opportunities for deep collaboration. My colleagues and I find ourselves strapped for time, and usually, collaboration means splitting up tasks and dividing up work.
It doesn’t mean thinking about and creating something new.
Collaboration, of course, takes a large commitment of time, patience, and skill. But I think I’m pretty good at it. On this library project, my partner and I talked on the phone three times (for a total of 4 1/2 hours) and spent approximately two hours each in independent work.
My favorite parts came when my partner challenged me on my thinking or came up with new ideas. At my school, that doesn’t happen too much because there’s usually not enough time and space to do so.
But that’s just an excuse. I’m figuring out that collaboration is at the heart of my work. Even though it’s sometimes time-consuming and challenging, it’s how my best work emerges.
Instead of being isolated — or isolating myself — I am hopeful that I can create and cultivate some deep collaborative experiences in the next few months.
It might be difficult finding colleagues with the capacity to engage in collaboration. It might also be difficult to find people with similar interests.
But I’m hopeful that I can pull something off.