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What is collaboration?

Main Entry: col·lab·o·rate
Pronunciation: \kə-ˈla-bə-ˌrāt\
Date: 1871

1 : to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor

(Merriam-Webster Online)

I’ve been learning a lot about collaboration.  Like many learning curves, I find myself with more questions than answers when it comes to collaboration.  One of the main reasons I’ve been learning so much about collaboration is because I’ve been privileged to work with a truly collaborative colleague.  Tif is teaching me what it means to work together toward a common goal and to allow ideas to evolve.  Here are some of the essentials I’m beginning to use to define collaboration.  Will you help me by adding your ideas as a comment to this post?
  • Open Minds:  Collaboration hinges on people not knowing the answers to the questions and being willing to think outside of the box.
  • Listening Ears:  For me, collaboration is more about listening than it is talking.  I’m not sure this is true for everyone.  I think some people work best when they are able to speak freely and verbalize their thinking.  This is one of the beautiful parts of collaboration — in order for me to process through listening, there must be others in the room who are willing to process through talking.
  • Risk:  Collaboration is about taking a chance on new ideas — often somebody else’s ideas.  This means it takes a willingness to risk.
  • Trust:  A safe environment where people aren’t worried about being judged or making a mistake is important.  The people I trust the most are the ones who I collaborate with the best.
  • Acceptance of Change:  I’ve come to realize teaching is a journey and I will be ever-changing as I grow as an educator.  Collaboration is about accepting a constant state of change and growth.  I hope I am always surrounded by other educators who do not want to be stagnate.
  • Small Doses:  A quick check-in is useful.  If we wait until we have the time for collaboration, it will never happen.  Short, frequent meetings are important.  They are like a shot to keep me focused and reflecting on my practice.
  • Chunks of Time:  From time to time it is essential to come together for a longer amount of time to truly pause and think about our practice. 
  • Self-Reflection:  When teachers are dedicated to reflecting on their practices on their own, their work together becomes more effective.
  • Space for the Unexpected:  It is essential to provide time for ideas to unfold organically.  When collaboration is overly structured or controlled, then there isn’t room for ideas to evolve and the unexpected to happen.
  • Joy:  Collaboration is at its finest when people are joyful about their work. 

What about you?  What are your essentials to true, worthwhile collaboration?


Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

3 thoughts on “What is collaboration? Leave a comment

  1. Great list! Very well thought out and articulated! I think I would add “open minded”. My best collaboration has been when I’ve been willing to let someone challenge me but not get my feelings hurt. And, likewise, when I’ve felt comfortable asking tough questions to someone else without worrying about hurting their feelings. A great collaboration time can be invaluable and open up all kinds of new thinking and growth.

    I love your blog. You make me think…


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