My friends and I started the Twitter chat (#EdTechAfterDark) in January, and the blog in March, so over the past five months we have heard hundreds of stories.  Teachers, students, and parents from across the world have shared, no matter the differences, their passion for teaching and learning is insatiable.  However, there’s another side to those stories, something that is fills me with equal parts sadness and alarm. Most of these educators are individual islands of innovation.

Alex, Dan, and I have learned how incredibly blessed we are to live and work in a district where we can work together, really together.  Dan and I worked at Citrus Springs Middle School and helped with a group of awesome administrations and teachers to implement iPads in the classroom.  Alex and I have been working together just this year.  The expression “catching lightning in a bottle” couldn’t begin to describe the feeling of true collaboration, sharing best practices, lessons, apps, ideas, literally every aspect of our professional lives.

Having lived in this Utopian system of teaching and learning leaves me feeling equal parts excitement and antipathy. Why is it that we teachers refuse to collaborate?  Why are we afraid to try new things?  What drives our identity as teachers?  I am going to share my reflections on these questions, but what I really want to know is how is it happening in rural Missouri or inner-city Detroit? It is my hope that this post will be shared among parents, teachers, and students across the world and those who read it will take a moment to share their answers to these questions.  Infections can only heal when they are revealed and all that is ugly and ill is removed.  This post is my attempt to open the conversation and start sharing with each other in new and innovative ways.

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Why is it that we teachers refuse to collaborate?

On the surface, it would seem that some teachers just don’t like to work with others.   Carol Kinsey Goman shared in a blog for Forbes that the main reasons people refuse to collaborate are: People don’t see the benefit of collaborating, they are “unconsciously competent” (They don’t know what they know), they are afraid of being wrong, they can’t translate what they know into language that others understand, they’ve tried collaborating only to have their opinions ignored, they don’t trust their teammates, and they work for leaders who don’t share.

In a world of merit-based pay, it would seem that the easy answer comes down to teachers not wanting others to be successful.  I’m not buying that, having worked in a number of different schools and having struggled with the feeling of not wanting to share myself, it was never about another teacher being or not being successful .  For me, it was all about being “The Best”,  “if they take my idea and the credit then I’m no longer special”.

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Why are teachers afraid to try new things?

One of the most damaging and pervasive aspects of school culture is the phrase, “that’s not how we do things here”.  The teachers making that statement are typically the same ones who were standing up with Morgan Freeman in “Lean on Me”, or were cheering on Jaime Escalante in his masterful work unleashing the genius in each of his young delinquents in “Stand and Deliver”.  What changed?  Why are these teachers typically feeling the most anxiety when adopting or even accepting new forms of pedagogical discovery?  I’m not just talking about technology, what about Essential Questions, Learning Objectives, WICOR strategies, researched based best practices. I refuse to believe it simply comes down to their laziness, and if it is, by God they should be removed immediately from their positions.

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What drives our identity as a teacher?

In his book “What Great Principals do Differently” Todd Whitaker shares how important it is to focus on the positive and most effective teachers on a campus.  He states that “Our superstars will always be effective teachers, but if we do not value their contributions, they will limit their influence to their individual classrooms.” At some point in almost all of our journeys as teachers, we sought the approval of our mentor, department head, or administrator. That’s not to say we are all co-dependent, whiners in need of constant coddling to feel secure, but some of us are.  Some of us go back and forth between security and insecurity depending on our mood, brain chemistry, or time of the year.  The question though is, how do we peel the onion back to our core and discern why we are teachers.  For me, it’s the phone call from the mother who hasn’t seen academic success in her son in years, but this year he’s excited about school again!

What are your thoughts on why teachers are reluctant to collaborate?

Why are teachers afraid or reluctant to try new things?

What drives you to be a teacher?

Share your thoughts and answers to these questions in the comments below!

Resources:

WICOR Strategies are the intellectual property of AVID
Emerson graphic from Quotesgram.com
“Simba Tries some new grub” owned by Disney
Where is your identity? Know yourself for who you are! Spirit Talks by Nathan Virtus

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