I have experienced a number of partnerships over the years. As a dramatic arts student, the success of my entire degree depended on my ability to collaborate. I have found that working in a smaller school creates an obstacle when teaching collaborative skills to students who have had the same group for multiple years.
I remember the one time I was unsuccessful in a group. This group was formed by a professor as part of an opportunity to present at a major drama in education conference. Members were invited in, and not part of selecting the team itself. This was my final year, and by now we all knew each other and I knew that I had some disagreements with a colleague, not knowing that struggle that would come later.
Our differences in pedagogy revealed itself early on, and a few items on the list created major conflicts. I felt that my approach was correct, and the other approach was ineffective and dangerous. It was the only time in my career when I went to my professor (or anyone) and stated that I was not able to continue with the group. I essentially gave that famous line “either I go or she/he goes”…ultimately it ended in a split of the group into two sections. It was the first time I had caused a disturbance in the force.
Being able to identify and advocate for yourself when faced with a colleague conflict is part of the collaborative process. Simply saying to someone that they should just work it out is not a tool that is useful or applicable in most situations. It took me 4 years in a university setting to realize I wasn’t able to work with someone, taking only perhaps 5 classes together over those years.
Imagine how much time it will take students who stay in the same class throughout their elementary career to develop their awareness for this. I don’t have the solution, but I think that in order to truly teach collaborative skills in this setting you must create new partnerships, which means working with another class in a different grade. Collaborative projects within and between divisions can be a way to promote true collaboration.
One of my goals for the near future is to partner up not only within a grade team but other grades above and below whatever I end up teaching. Creating opportunities to focus on reflecting on these experiences could provide a richer experience.
Do you remember a time when you realized you couldn’t just work it out with someone? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?