Faculty collaboration is what makes the sum of the parts greater than the whole. It’s what creates the conditions for students to excel intellectually, academically, socially and emotionally. And that’s the primary business of the schoolhouse. Schools in which students are not achieving their highest and greatest potential are not fabulous. They may be good or even great, but great is not good enough when it comes to schools and the education of our children. The ultimate goal of school improvement is to create outstanding schools for all students.
Most schools kill collaboration before it even has a chance to germinate. That’s hardly the fault of the teachers. It’s a problem with the very structure of the school. One can’t expect teachers to work together as a team when schools’ organizational systems proclaim loudly and clearly that collaboration is dead upon arrival. Little or no time to meet together, the absence of effective school leadership that supports teamwork, and a lack of cross-curricular planning are a few of the telltale signs that collaboration among teachers is not valued.
First and foremost, the school leader must clearly articulate the case for working together as a team. Given how deeply collaboration is buried by the structure of schools, they must make a compelling case for collaboration. They need to be truly committed to collaboration at every level in the school. To rise above the noise, they must be visionary and zealous in creating a collaborative environment. That’s not an easy task and many school leaders will benefit from leadership coaching to accomplish the goal of creating schools in which collaboration among faculty and staff members is as much a part of the fabric of the school as students and teachers themselves.
A collaborative faculty sits together and plans the curriculum. English teachers teach content and skills that are connected to content and skills being taught in social studies, art, science and so on. Units of inquiry centered on main ideas guide the organization of the curriculum across the disciplines.
Suppose, for example, that students in the sixth grade are studying peace and conflict. In social studies, students may be studying about notable peacemakers and the origins of war while the science teacher engages students in exploring scientific discoveries that were the source of major conflicts between religion and science. The English teacher has selected a text focused on themes of war and peace, and students are discussing the characters and plots, and writing essays on peace and conflict. Add physical education, art and drama to the mix and students are buzzing with the excitement of learning that actually makes sense to them.