Cooperation? Collaboration? How about starting with Conversation?

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Cooperative and collaborative learning can enhance our classroom instruction with structured, vibrant, and meaningful learning.  Research indicates that this type of learning is not successful without prior class building and team building activities to promote a safe, nurturing classroom environment.  Educators who initiate the school year with students getting to know each other and make connections through conversation foster a class bond.  This is the type of bond where there are tears at the end of the school year, because everyone will miss each other over the summer.

 Yet, teachers are the last group of people to attempt to form bonds with each other.  Think about it…remember the last time you sat in a faculty, team, or committee meeting when the silence was awkward?  Perhaps, only one or two people did all the collaborating while other people checked their text messages or graded papers?  Sometimes, we emulate the negative scenarios in our classroom of attempted cooperative and collaborative learning!

This is not always on purpose – just as our students don’t maniacally plan to destroy our cooperative learning lessons.  As a school faculty and staff, we don’t take the time to have conversations with each other.   How many of you know EVERY one of your colleagues’ names?

So, what can schools do to promote conversations with one another?  Here are just a few suggestions to enhance a school community of collaboration:

  1. Start the year with a social event for faculty and staff to get to know each other. This doesn’t mean a faculty meeting with one getting to know you activity.  Host an event where the sole purpose is to mingle and mix!
  1. Assign the SAME vertical teams for the whole school year. These teachers can really get to know one another on a different grade level.
  1. Provide “safe” areas for teachers to have conversations with each other. Most teachers’ lounges are filled with clutter, copy machines, etc.  It’s not a place to relax.  How about having a comfortable, decorated area that attracts teachers to socialize with one another?
  1. Create social events throughout the year OUTSIDE of school. Invite the family members of faculty and staff.  Make some connections.

At the end of the day, administrators and educators may have their “hands tied” when it comes to some of these ideas, but let’s start our conversations then with a simple, “Hello,” on the sidewalk.