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June 3, 2012 / glencoyote

Collaboration

Public disservice announcement: I know that I am failing as an English teacher when “I can score the basketball” is allowed into the English language.

To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not.

Julian Assange, State and Terrorist Conspiracies (cited by Bridle)

Collaboration, except with the enemy, is a good thing. But public education has never taken collaboration seriously. The temporal (workday filled with student face time) and physical limits (walls enclosing single teacher classrooms) preclude collaboration for most teachers, most of the time. As Assange observes, it is technological change that holds out hope. As teachers tweet, chat, blog, and video conference, the collaborative moment nears.
The final step must, however, bring us into each other’s classrooms. Fulltime team teaching is one way to do this – and in the future of my universe everyone will team teach –  but team teaching alone is not sufficient to build a learning community. As Richard Elmore argues, calibrating our conceptual framework, our vocabulary of teaching and learning, requires seeing and describing the same moments. So here is a less than radical idea: build into each teaching day an observation period, in addition to the current conference period. Of course something like that will only happen when Americans decide to fund education and, assuming  teachers’ unions survive, it can be negotiated into a contract.

Barry Schwartz reminds us that, in addition to love, having work that is meaningful and satisfying is one of the keys to happiness. He also emphasizes a point that ought to be obvious but which, unfortunately, is too often unrealized, that people want to be virtuous. That doing things we know to be less than optimal is no one’s first choice. If you want to understand the demoralization within the teaching profession, that last point is critical.

Students want work that is meaningful and satisfying. If we believe in student centered education then meaningful and satisfying is a pretty good place to start. It is worth noting that during this time of testing madness, and love for all things charter, project based learning and learning for humane connections is ushering in an era of student centered education unparalleled in American education. It is the best of times and the worst of times.

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