Everyone has their little kingdom. For some it's a cubicle. For others it's a home. For teachers, it's a classroom. It's their domain. Their dominion. I used to tell my students my classroom was a benevolent dictatorship. I was in charge. Me. Not them. Not ever. And consorting with colleagues? Unthinkable, right? Maybe in days past, but in today's educational climate, if you want to teach collaboration, model it yourself via your interactions with your coworkers.
Colleagues are a teacher's lifeblood. They help sustain us via venting and brainstorming sessions. They encourage and support us. They are honest with us and tell us when we may need to shape up a bit. At least, this is how I think it works.
I'm an honest person in that I honestly tell people what I think. Oftentimes I do this with little or no regard to being tactful. Not because I mean to, but because that's how I'm wired. No excuses. I need to be more mindful of the behavior and change it. So why am I sharing this? Because it relates to my coworkers who have patiently dealt with this shortcoming of mine for years. Just as I deal with theirs. That's the key. As colleagues, we try to work through these things so we can be more effective as a team who supports our students.
If I want my students to work together, is it right for me not to expect the same of myself? Shouldn't the teacher be willing to model the behavior he/she wants students to imitate? If only for this reason alone, I need to be willing to work with my fellow teachers.
Sometimes there will be misunderstandings or a teacher will have a sucky day and let the suckiness invade the rest of the day. In those moments, she will likely say something unintended or do something she later regrets. Been there, yada, yada, t-shirt.
I have patient colleagues who forgive my errant behavior. I want to be the same type of coworker to them--forgiving and willing to give out a dose of grace. "Treat others the way you want to be treated" is a favorite quote of mine from the Bible. And one I try to adhere to, the key word being "try." Instead of throwing up hands in defeat when I blow it, I accept the misstep and welcome the chance to change my behavior. And I'm grateful to colleagues who extend the grace when I don't.
So the bottom line is this: it's hard to collaborate with colleagues with whom you have issues. Deal with the problems head on, showing your students positive human interaction skills. Once you've attacked the problem, work together as a unified front to model how to communicate with others, work with others, and learn and grow with others.
Don't be afraid to take on weird projects linked by only a tenuous thread of commonality between subject areas. Work with colleagues on projects, demonstrating the skills needed to do so. The result? Students will see a close staff who collaborate with each other in order to offer an engaging environment and maximize the learning experience.
Some days will be great, others not so much; but in the end, it's all worth it. Look around your staff at the veritable gold mine of opportunities awaiting you--working with your coworkers. Just remember, it's all about the students. And if working with a fellow teacher can bring me closer to engaging students, bring it on. Collaborating with colleagues can make all the difference. Just try it and see.