Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Collaboration- Tara O'Neill

“It isn’t much good having anything exciting like floods, if you can’t share them with somebody”  - Pooh Bear.

And so it began, our first experience of Team Teaching, in our new building.  Six teachers, 55 students aged Year 1 to Year 5.  One space, divided into 5 rooms all connected.  Shared students, shared spaces, shared curriculum, shared planning, shared teaching.  Exciting!

Collaboration  - working together to achieve a common goal. 

We all think what we see is right, but the truth is we all see our part of the elephant.  You might see the trunk, I might see the tail, but it is only when we talk and learn together that we understand the whole expanse of the elephant.

Collaboration has meant I have learnt more about the children I teach than I would have in a single cell class.  When we collaborate, our ideas join and merge becoming something new.  For example, four teacher’s involved with twelve learners sit down to discuss teaching them for different areas of the curriculum.  These twelve students have four different teachers throughout the course of the day. 
The ensuing conversation means the teachers, are able to share where they thought each student was learning, what is working and what is not.  Nothing is taken for granted.  For the students this means new ideas to help their learning, and an improved learning environment that has been reflected on by a team of people. 

Collaboration leads to innovation and a love of learning.

The following is a talk on National Radio with Margaret Heffernan about competition.  She outlines why competition can be the enemy of innovation and why competition may not always be the best way for us to truly win.

Collaboration means, listening.   

I cannot enter collaboration thinking that I know it all, I must be able to give the person respect by leaving space in my thinking to consider their views.  I also need to trust the people I collaborate with.   I do this by honoring them as having something worth saying. 

The crunch comes when they offend me. When they say something that I disagree with or something that I don’t understand.    I need to get good at processing this offence otherwise it acts as a boulder in the relationship, blocking further ideas from being shared. 
Offence is something I feel because of something someone else said.  If I don’t like their point of view, then I need to,
1.  Be aware of what I am feeling.   
2.  In recognizing the feeling, isolate the cause of the offence, (the idea, or way something was said), and allow it to sit for a while.  
3.  Come back to it when I have calmed down. 
4.  Deal with it   A.  It probably isn’t as bad as I first thought and actually now I think about it, I understand it from their point of view.  I can adjust my point of view and continue on being that much richer for having been exposed to another’s ideas.   B.  Say sorry if I caused offence.  C.  Talk to the person about the situation.

It is very important that we try not to judge.  I think it is as we begin to judge, we can weaken friendship, relationship and community.  Everyone has a point of view, a part they see that we don’t.  Sometimes we have to accept that is what they see at the moment. 

I recently reflected on my experience of being judged, as a mother of a child with diverse learning needs and wrote the following piece.   I hope it will give you insight as to how we all see things differently and how it is important when we collaborate, that we trust, listen and give space to consider some one else’s point of view. 

A Point of View
Before I had a child labeled Autistic, I thought that parents of children with Autism were unskilled parents.  Since my eyes were opened, I see parents of children with Autism as amazing, dedicated, strong, resilient humans, raising equally amazing, talented and welcomed humans.
There it is - Before and After. 
Before I couldn’t see out of my tunnel.  I had no idea, I had no experience, I had no understanding.  I had a lot of judgement and ignorance.  I wasn’t a bad person, I was just one in a tunnel.  I couldn’t see what I couldn’t see. 
After I could see.  I had compassion, understanding, empathy.  I wasn’t a good person, I was just out of the tunnel.  I could see. 
As humans, we sometimes make sense of the world by using our world.  We look out of our tunnel and explain a world without a tunnel like our own.  All we see is the reflection of our own walls, our own thinking and our own feelings.   Worse, we let these images, these ideas and values limit us and confine us to the known.   They also confine others.
I feel the stares as my child screams behind me as I walk into school.  I hear the rumors of how I am a bad parent.  I remember the misunderstanding of family, the silent dismissal of others who can’t understand. 
 I experience with incredible gratitude, the kindness of one who understands.  The words they speak that put my world into a reality that feels like I can survive.   The way they listen, the time they take and the love they show.   I appreciate that they can see where I am. They can understand why I am and who my child is, even though they are not in my tunnel.   How grateful I am to them.  They change my world.  They change my child’s world.  To me they are superstars.

And for me, that is what collaboration allows, the understanding of another’s point of view merged with my own. Having someone to share the experience with.  Not thinking my view is all there is to it, but listening, thinking and seeking to understand.   The magic that occurs during this process, means a richer learning environment for the teachers and children in our learning community.  

Tara O’Neill

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