For three decades or more we have been working on being better at teaching students to collaborate, as well as working to be better at it ourselves. Regardless of where we are in knowing how to share these skills, students must be taught to communicate with others, resolve conflicts, and manage tasks. After all, aren’t we working on setting students up for future successes out in the “real” world? In the work world not many of us ever work in isolation, do we?
The main point of the article I referenced above and what I know to be true is that students must be taught to collaborate. Just like we must teach and foster their abilities to do mathematics, read, play music, or understand history, they must be taught and guided through the process of collaboration. We ask kids from very young ages to share and play with others, so I see the collaboration skillset as an extension of that. This sounds incredibly simple, but it has not always been an easy fit in many classrooms. Teaching collaboration, in my opinion, is very difficult because the intrinsic value of it as a skill is usually viewed rather subjectively.
Do you think of yourself as a good collaborator? Professionally we are expected to take part in different Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Do you embrace collaboration or are you reluctant to be fully engaged in the PLCs you are required to be a part of? If you shy away from your PLC responsibilities for whatever reason, I challenge you to find your way back to it. Just as we may shy away from teaching our least favorite parts of the required curriculum, we must find within our own professionalism the reason to participate. Sound familiar? I think it may echo what students say about collaborating in the classroom. This may not be easy or it may be uncomfortable for many reasons, but it is something that will pay big dividends if we learn how to do it well and embrace it. Teachers need to set great examples for their students.
Here is a challenge for you… This summer learn more about teaching students to be better collaborators. You never know, you may learn skills you can apply in the PLC you need to be a part of.