“Two heads are better than one.” “Many hands make light work.”
It does not take much digging to find quotes touting the value of working with others. While collaboration, teamwork, and forging alliances has always been part of our culture, the pandemic certainly pushed these things down the priority list. We all headed home into a cocoon of isolated safety to work and create.
But that does seem to be changing now.
The New York Times Book Review recently ran a piece about six children’s book authors and illustrators who share a studio loft where they gather and work. All award-winning authors, they support, critique, share, mentor, and encourage each other. Whether they are sharing tips about navigating the logistics of the publishing world, or giving feedback on a proposed story idea, the atmosphere seems to be one of kindness, empathy, and accommodation. At times the loft buzzes with sound and laughter as they meet or gather at communal tables, and at other times the loft is quiet as they work and create individually in spots around the space.
As the new school year gets underway, I am aiming to have my classroom be that kind of community of collaboration. A place where students work with each other as well as individually. Where it is safe to try new ideas and ask for input from your peers, and where any feedback and advice is given with kindness and a sense of support.
To support this, I have honed my classroom expectations to three simple norms.
- Be Respectful
We do not have to agree with each other; we do not have to understand each other’s perspective; we do not even have to like everyone with whom we work, but we must ALWAYS treat everyone with respect. It is the tried and true old adage of “treat everyone as you want to be treated”.
- Be Involved
We all benefit from the ideas, thoughts, and perspectives of everyone else, so it is essential that we all be actively engaged in all we do. No by-standers in our classroom. Be present.
- Do Your Very Best
Effort is more important than results. We will be trying new and difficult things; we will fail; we will be going outside of our comfort zone. But we will always put forth our best effort. If our effort results in a failure, we can figure out the lessons imbedded in our failure, and move on.
Wishing everyone a community of collaboration in which to grow and learn.