The scope of this question is particularly bothersome to me. I like the way that Paula has discussed the inside-out phenomenon that many believe in where we all take care of the kids in our classroom and that creates a panacea for bad teaching in other rooms. I especially like this comment:
It is time to stop hiding incompetence and start demanding excellence from all of us.
It fascinates me that school leaders (teachers and administrators) talk about “transformational leadership” in education and continue to coddle teachers that are downright ineffective, lazy, and do an outstanding job of holding kids back. Maybe we need to stop and relax our herculean grip on collaboration as the savior in education?
At some point we need to be honest and admit to the fact that collaboration only takes us so far. In fact, collaboration isn’t the Holy Grail for fixing the teaching profession the same way that relevance isn’t the Holy Grail for engaging kids. We need to realize that we’re not all working towards the same goal and the utopian fantasy that many educators embrace is simply a fallacy.
At the same time, some studies and reports as recent as 2006 suggest that 50% of new teachers leave the profession within five years. So you want to have a bigger influence on education reformation: start working with the younger teachers and encouraging them to be dynamic and innovative while offering the social and emotional support to “stay in the game”. Take the energy you focus on collaborating with people who won’t change and apply it to something that will.
I think it is ludicrous the way that we spend so much time and energy “collaborating” with teachers that are rigid and refuse change when we have young, energetic teachers that are leaving the profession because they feel burnt out and frustrated. Forget the rigid teachers! Focus on those that truly embrace help. The reality is that our tenure system protects both good and bad teachers, but even reforming that doesn’t guarantee true educational change. All it does is grease the hinges on the revolving door.
I’ve spoken before about “Broken Window Theory”, and I have to say that I believe it is relevant for this question as well. Little steps forward lead to big rewards and gains. The problem is that a lot of the “collaboration” that occurs in schools is simply a stalled vehicle because of the individuals that are focused on the most.
If we work with all new teachers and encourage and support them to be dynamic and innovative teachers then we can slowly, but surely, change education. It won’t happen overnight, it won’t happen in a year, and it might not happen entirely in five years. Either way, it’s more progressive in changing the education system than everyone trying to jump people from 1970 to 2010 by telling them how much we value their opinion when we know their opinion is more of an effort to prevent any type of educational reform.
Let me be clear: I am not against collaboration in schools. In fact, I’m all for it, and I believe it is a necessary step in improving the quality of education for anyone. The key to my opinion is that I acknowledge something about education that most “pie in the sky” types don’t.
Collaboration is only collaboration when both sides come to the table with an open mind and a desire to change what is currently happening rather than one of the sides just bitching about the good ‘ole days.
Make a bigger impact on changing education? Start with the people who will listen.