September 8, 2017
Schools are starting up again in the Northern Hemisphere. Just even remembering we see ‘summer’ differently here in the Northern Hemisphere as summer in Australia is ‘winter’ weather-wise has some folks’ heads spinning. We experience things differently depending on how we look at them. Colleagues at school are no exception.
Look at the world from the kindergarten teacher’s viewpoint. On day one, parents are dropping off their kids and weeping over the awareness of what a developmental leap their children are taking and Kinder teachers are prepared with a few boxes of Kleenex. It is a sweet thing to witness.
Then look at the start of school from a ‘been there, done that’ 5th grader’s point of view. The student is also taking a leap – maybe out of the car and away from their parents with aplomb and confidence. What a difference a few years make.
Noticing differences matter, especially as we work together in teams.
Let’s start off the year here in the Northern Hemisphere by acknowledging we see and do things differently. There is a bunch to know about the folks with whom you collaborate such as…
- Do you like to process aloud? Do you need silence in your meetings for think time?
- Are you someone who needs to plan ahead or are you more of a “when it comes up I will handle it in the moment” kind of person?
- Are you a concrete thinker who needs details or do you like to see the big picture and you can go from there?
- Are you more of a logical person or do you go with your gut more often?
Even though I used to lovingly say that my ex-boyfriend’s lack of concern about getting to the airport the right way – 90 minutes ahead of time, of course – was a moral defect, guess what? We both got on the plane. The way we handled our time at the airport was neither right nor wrong, but just different.
Deep end folks work on being more allocentric – more other-focused. Asking themselves in collaboration – How might my colleague be viewing this situation? From where might their perspective come? Might they look at the issue differently because of their years of teaching, where they have taught, or how they see the role of the teacher should be? Might we have different priorities? Might we come at the concern differently based on our apprenticing in different content areas (Science teachers vs. English teachers) or because of our past histories?
If we want to not just be right, but effective and we want to play in the deep end and do good work, we need to do it together. We need to do it maturely, civilly, and keeping our end goal of student growth in mind in how we collaborate. No moral defects here, just differences.
This post was originally published on the edCircuit blog where Jennifer is a featured columnist.
About Jennifer Abrams
Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's latest book is Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives. Her previous publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.
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