Archive for February 18th, 2013


Working Together

February 18, 2013

Finding Common Ground – Peter DeWitt’s blog

imagesNone of us is as smart as all of us. Many of you have heard me say this  Japanese proverb. My friend and colleague retired Maine Alliance for Arts Education Executive Director, Carol Trimble has this family saying We’re a Genius. When I came across this blog post titled Working Together, We Can Produce Genius I thought, I am going to like this blog post written by Robert Garmston and Valerie von Frank. And, I do and recommend it!

The authors point out that working in collaboration is not new. For example, even though Thomas Edison is credited with inventing the light bulb he did not work alone. He worked with several scientists who bounced ideas off each other and collaborated in a large open space. Hmmm… that sounds familiar.

They mention the “shift” happening in schools out of necessity, with teachers working together “combining efforts to work more strategically”. We know this is not a new concept either. But is it happening more in your schools than perhaps 5 or 10 years ago? And, are you involved in the team work?

I’ve noticed that we talk about collaborating in our work but do we know what that means, do we know how it looks? Does it matter who is collaborating? I have many questions about collaboration. If we try it once and it fails do we give up? How do we know which teachers should work together? What is the purpose of collaborating? Will it provide more and better opportunities for student learning and achievement?

The authors suggest these three topics to confront while planning.

  1. The group is (almost) always smarter than its members.
  2. The wisdom of the group can create better decisions.
  3. Who’s in the group matters.

I kept honey bees for several years and was amazed by their habits, behaviors, and how and what they produced. Each bee has their role and the sheer number of bees in a hive, about 30,000, all buzzing around playing their part! Talk about collaboration! I will never forget the first time I went into a bee hive. The bees clearly knew their part and who was supposed to be there. I was clearly a foreigner.

What can we learn from bees and other groups that function in a collaborative environment that have a positive impact on the world? What can we learn from teams who have creatively tackled new ideas and concepts and made a community a better place? Perhaps sharing the blog post Working Together We Can Produce Genius with a colleague or the staff at your school would be a good place to start (or continue) a discussion.

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