Monday, April 1, 2013

Chapter 4 -- Building a Collaborative Culture

There is so much to think about in this chapter, but let's talk about collegiality. Think about your learning communities, both online and local. How was collegiality built? If your communities are not collegial, how can you work to build a culture where it is safe to share ideas and challenge each others' thinking? Be sure to also participate in the authors' collaborative Google Presentation to share your thoughts and ideas with the larger community and to learn from them. If you have not done so already, please share how others in the group can connect with you through social media.


  1. We need to be the learners we want students to be. When we are, students see us question, seek, try, fail, adapt, modify, change, learn, grow, repeat, repeat. When we don’t have to feel that we have to be right, a burden is lifted and we can learn together – with other teachers, staff members, and most importantly, with our students.

    Collegiality is built first in the hallways of a school. It begins by not passing teachers without a greeting and by stopping to chat with teachers you only kind of know…until you know them. Collegiality means getting out of our comfort zone by not waiting to walk with the usual teacher(s) to the staff meeting and just going and taking an available seat – even if that means you have to get to talk to someone you don’t really know. And collegiality means saying yes to requests that you join a committee or participate in an activity, just for the opportunity to talk with and learn from other staff and community members.

    When I was a librarian, I didn’t have a “posse,” which was a blessing. I sat with any teachers or any grade levels at any meeting. I was always the odd-one out so I got used to it and eventually became an adopted member of several different groups and grade levels. Now that I am a high school teacher, I know the value of sitting with people I only kind of know and I look forward to talking and working with people who aren’t in my grade level and who teach in a different department.

    Of course, this is what we do with our own self-created PLN. I often don’t know what grade or subject level someone I follow teaches and I know that I have as much to learn (often more) from elementary and middle school teachers as I do from high school teachers because I know first-hand the work ethic and commitment to excellence of the various grade and content area teachers and staff members I’ve had the honor to work with!

  2. "When we don’t have to feel that we have to be right, a burden is lifted and we can learn together" I love this idea,Catherine! One of the many things that frustrates me with the ideas behind the RISE model and merit pay (which our school has modified but the ideas are still there) is that it has fostered negative competition in schools. Teachers feel pitted against each other, and SO much rides on what a principal sees during snapshot evaluations and assessments that I find myself feeling like I always have to be right! My school seemed more collegial on many levels when I first came to the middle school 6 years ago- now we are all so much more busy and so much more concerned that we are fearful in some ways to share, to be wrong, to learn and relearn together, and to see leadership as "learning together"- which really resonated with me in the book. I often am asked to be a teacher trainer in technology, but I really see myself as a co-learner and would LOVE it to be an interactive share session where everyone can contribute and grow- including the trainer!

    When I first started teaching 18 years ago, I was the youngest and newest staff member by at least 10 years (when Grissom Airforce Base closed, a lot were RIFfed) so I made friends with the older teachers- I was the only Spanish teacher. Then they made Grissom into lower income housing, built a prison, and recreated the base as a Reserve base- our population boomed again and young teachers were hired- new friends. Since I taught Spanish, I was like you- "no posse"- and I loved it! Now at the Middle School, I teach Social Studies- being all 3 grade levels means I always have another teacher to collaborate with in my subject- and I'm on a grade level team, so it really should foster more collegial relationships. I get a lot out of my PLN too- Facebook and Pinterest- and it almost seems easier because we aren't together and there isn't the competitive factor. Our principal has us working in co-curricular partnerships this spring, getting ready for Common Core- I'm working with the 6th grade Language Arts teacher- to find connections in our teaching and curriculum. It's a refreshing chance to see inside another's classroom and share what happens in mine- no, I don't always like the Common Core, but it has it's upside- and I'm blessed that as a Spanish teacher I understand literacy and that the Language Arts teacher has a Social Studies background so we really "get" each other.

  3. I consider myself to be very lucky! I work with a great group of people and one of the things that I enjoy the most is interacting with them and learning from them on a daily basis. Although we are very far apart, I feel like they are always by my side. Whether it be through Skype, GoToMeeting, FaceBook, or email we are constantly communicating. Anytime I am faced with a challenge that I am not sure how to approach, I send out a message for help, and my wonderful colleagues are there to help guide me through.

  4. "If your communities are not collegial, how can you work to build a culture where it is safe to share ideas and challenge each other’s thinking?” This question especially interested me. I began my teaching in a brand-new high school where everyone shared and there was a great sense of “we are all in this together to create something wonderful”. After three years, we moved, and I was hired by a smaller school district with a very different philosophy. The first time I accomplished something in my new classroom and rushed to share it with another teacher, I was greeted with the unmistakable attitude of “why are you telling me this” and “why would I care”. Over the years at this school corporation, this attitude changed, and more teachers began to work collegially, but it was a slow process and one not immediately embraced by everyone because, as this question prompt pointed out, there has to be a different culture established. I am currently reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg and I can see some direct application to this situation. Duhigg maintains that habits cannot be forgotten, but they can be relearned. In other words, the cue and the reward remain constant, but the action in the middle (routine) can be changed. I don't have a true answer, but I know teachers and those in charge must work to make sure it happens…and that relearning habits must drive the process.

  5. One of the points that resonate for me is the fostering of collegiality in face-to-face professional learning communities. How often do we affirm each other and the ideas generated by members of a community even when we see a different path to follow? Many authors of books about teaching writing emphasize the need to refer to students as writers. This has a positive impact on students. I think the same would be true for adult learners. Because I have been reading this book, when I attended my district’s Technology Committee meeting, I was encouraging them to volunteer to be presenters at the summer conferences in the state and it dawned on me that they did not see themselves as I saw them. “You are tech leaders who have valuable information to share with others.” I told them, hoping that I was not the first person to tell them. They have amazing ideas and projects that others would like to know about. As a community of learners we need to affirm the ideas and work that people contribute.
    So, I am going to encourage the teachers and tech people from my district to nominate someone for the TOY Award given out each year at ICE (Indiana Computer Educators) Conference. Indiana eLearning just posted the link on their FB page.
    I think that affirmation of each other creates a strong climate and fosters that trust factor.

  6. If you missed it, we had a great Twitter discussion around the idea of collegiality in last week's #INeLearn Twitter Chat. You can visit the archive here

    I'm really enjoying your posts each week. Thanks for sharing and letting me learn alongside you!

  7. I feel that my learning community is does provide exellent opportunities in providing a collaborative culture for anyone that is interested in participating. Our tech dept is very furturistic in thinking and offer many workshops to keep everyone on top of new ways of connecting with others in the learning community. There are some teachers that are leary of the new technology, but are willing to share personally.

  8. My community is growing....almost by the day! I have a great group of teachers I work with, administrators who mentor me and other staff in communities close by that help to stretch my thinking. I am working to find good twitter connections and think this summer will be a great time to begin to connect. I am very interested in connecting with teachers who work in inclusion settings. I have so many challenges and each year my program looks just different than the year before.
    Twitter: @kdparsons

  9. Sorry, I'm a little behind on my postings. This chapter has been an inspirational one for me. I set up a a blog for discussion on my Moodle page for the lower school teachers highlighting my findings from this book.I have posted a summary of the chapters and posed a few questions for discussion. I have been amazed at how they have responded. The main focus of the discussions has been technology collaboration options and how we can best use our collective times. The discussions have been great. The teachers want to keep this type of forum open for a multitude of topics to be discussed and shared through out the year. As the technology integration specialist, I feel I have successfully opened the doors for collaboration.