I was asked by a friend recently for input on my experience with scheduled collaborative time. I got me thinking about ways we can not only build much-needed time into our school schedules but how we might plan and support a collaborative culture so that the time is well used. Below is mostly what I replied to my friend’s question. It would be interesting to learn of others’ experiences with school-wide collaborative time.
My school doesn’t have collaborative time. One thing I’ve heard/noticed at some high schools in Vancouver that do have collaborative time built in to their timetables is that teachers don’t use it for authentic collaboration but rather for marking or administrative meetings. I have discussed these problems with the TLs at those schools and my impression is that the average classroom teacher doesn’t know where to start or what collaboration might look like.
My understanding (though I may be wrong) is that there was very little modeling or mentor-style support provided when the schedule change was adopted. Subsequently, if the unproductivity is identified, the administrative solution of submitting accountability records of activities comes off as top-down and nit-picky.
As I visit different schools, it seems to me that teachers appear to not buy in when in fact they are just nervous and unsure of how to proceed. Teacher collaboration often requires the building of collegial relationships that are unlike what some folks have ever really known in their career – that must be super uncomfortable!
One of my UBC courses this semester started with the question (among others) “how comfortable are you with letting go (temporarily) of your own agenda?” My prof also said “trust the process” about ten times. I think that these are some of the keys to fruitful collaboration. Collaboration is embodied AND we don’t know where it will take us; these are not common characteristics of a teacher’s practice/ comfort zone.
I think a major key is to acknowledge that learning to collaborate professionally can be really hard. We can’t just provide the time and expect immediate and profound results. I’m looking forward to following my friend’s school’s process.