My grade 4 and 5 teachers (Brenda Neil and Glenda Newson) taught me that I could be magical. They developed a writing program for our public school based on the idea that every student had a responsibility to write and that every student’s words were valuable. We had big green folders with different pockets for the various stages of our writing. We were given lovely chunks of time (frigid January afternoons were my favourite), where we could get lost in our imaginations as we poured them onto paper. I wasn’t a particularly confident kid but the praise and support of my teachers made me feel invincible whenever I sat down to write. They were simply consistent with their message and they took it very seriously. “You need to write. The world needs to hear your thoughts.”
Unfortunately, grade 4 and 5 were the pinnacle of my K-12 journey in some ways. I am struggling to think of another experience that was empowering in the way that my time with these two teachers was. Most of the time, I found power by figuring out how to do as little as possible and still achieve decent marks. If I failed, it was no big deal because I hadn’t tried that hard anyway. Teachers constantly told me how much I could accomplish if I was more focused or if I cared more. But I can’t recall a teacher asking me what I did care about. My primary school teachers found a way to make my own thoughts and dreams the centre of my skill building. My high school teachers did not.
Collaboration is the most important skill for our students and for us. I think it’s also the hardest thing to do properly because it is so contingent upon the relationship (or lack of relationship) between the people trying to collaborate. Adults are horrible at this. I’m often horrible at collaboration. But in the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to click with a few colleagues and build together. The power of this is startling to me and I’m eager to find more ways to make it happen.
In my classroom, we use Harkness as our main tool to support collaboration. It is incredibly frustrating in the first 4-5 months of any school year until students learn to see the value in one another. As a teacher, it is really tough to watch the students be so frustrated. I have to hold myself back often from making it easier for them. Ultimately, I just remind myself that collaboration is about recognizing value in others; if we can help students do that well then I think we have a shot at turning the future around.
Lindsey, Joe. Tour De France Stage 21: Celebration on the Champs-Elysees. Bicyling. Hearst Magazine. 27 July 2019. web.