The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.
My blog thinking from last week focused on the need to define our schools and system as a whole using a strength based approach – whereby we all adhere to the Learner Mindset rather than the Judger Mindset. I have written about this in the past, however I continually return to it as our growth requires us to focus on the positive, to give up on “gripes” and to see challenges as opportunities (thus modelling a growth mindset). This has me returning to and reflecting on Our Conditions for Learning – specifically to Collaboration, as genuine collaboration is one of the key actions whose existence ensures that we continue to move forward. As Shelley, our Board Leadership Development Lead states, “Who is smarter than one of us…? ALL of us!”
Collaboration (vs. Cooperation): I know I am collaborating if I work interdependently, engage others, actively listen, constructively contribute, respectfully challenge ideas, and share knowledge to build on others’ thinking to arrive at a desired goal.
As Ontario educators, we teach our students to actively engage in positive Collaboration as a Learning Skill:
…a Learning Skill that we provide feedback for on the Ontario Report Card:
As professional educators collaboration is one of expectations that defines our profession – as evident in the Leadership in Learning Communities Standard of Practice:
Leadership in Learning Communities
Members promote and participate in the creation of collaborative, safe and supportive learning communities. They recognize their shared responsibilities and their leadership roles in order to facilitate student success. Members maintain and uphold the principles of the ethical standards in these learning communities.
Within our schools, there are some powerful models of collaboration currently taking place among the professionals and thus our students are witnessing this 21st century skill in action daily. From this modelling, these students are understanding that, to achieve a goal, adults work together, as learning is constructive. The level of this professional collaboration can be assessed by the following rubric (from Edugains Professional Learning Cycle Collaborative Inquiry Continuum) in the context of our learning:
The need to engage in collaboration was reinforced recently by educational leaders including Fullan, Hattie, Robinson, and Munby (to name a few), who discussed the essential nature of “leading from the middle’ as a powerful method of transforming education systems. “Leading from the middle” describes a system network whereby “all schools, 100%, should be involved in focused, proactive networks within which leaders, teachers and students challenge, support, innovate and learn from one another in ways that measurably improve outcomes.” (Fullan and Munby, 2016). These networks are led from within, not by central office, but by the individuals sitting at the table. They involve outside knowledgeable others when necessary, but the belief that the most powerful work comes from those who are at the table, is paramount. Also key is the notion that the success of the network depends not only on their sense of moral purposeful (improved outcomes for students) grounded by measurements of impact, but by their ability to collaborate and eventually, to reach “a position of shared professional accountability”. This is the way of the future for our profession. We need to think about the implications of this research on our future decisions.
When I consider our school board, our vision is to have 100% of our staffs working collaboratively towards the achievement of our collective goals – those articulated by our Strategic Plan and operationalized by our Board Learning Plan for Student Achievement and Well-Being. These are important goals that address not only student achievement and well-being, but the responsible stewardship of resources and the building of positive relationships. To truly work collaboratively, we know that we need to work as a team, acknowledging that we each have a vital role to play in our success. Each and every one of us needs to do our part – we need to assume responsibility for ensuring that our schools and board as a whole are student-centered environments where everyone feels a sense of belonging and are motivated/persevere in learning. Some believe that this is the work of “the board”; I would like to suggest that we are all in this together – from Manitouwadge to Nakina, from Longlac to Dorion – regardless of our role – we are all educators who comprise and define our district school board. We are all “our board”. We define our board with our amazing work – work that, when focused on fostering a sense of belonging through a truly collaborative, strength-based approach, can increasingly make a positive difference. My new motto…”make it a positive day together”.
Until Next Week: Make it a positive week…together.