Sunday, August 14, 2011

Collaboration -- A Hero's Journey

This year, our school district launches Collaboration Time for Teachers, a weekly opportunity for teachers to have additional time during the school day to work together and have professional conversations. Our district and schools spent much time last year hammering out the fine points of what this collaboration time would entail, mainly defining "the vision" and "the details." During many a meeting in which "the details" necessarily took priority, 'the vision" became buried and forgotten. I felt that it was vitally important that "the vision" not be lost.

The Hero's Journey
Asked by my principal to reflect on "the vision" of collaboration and share my thoughts with our staff, I gladly accepted the opportunity to re-clarify this vision. Here is a summary of my thoughts:

Our school was founded 12 years ago with another unique vision, that of a group of heroes embarking on a journey of discovery—a metaphorical quest to transform learning. As a guide, we used the book The Hero's Journey by J. Brown and C. Moffett to illuminate our path. The hero's journey follows a cyclical, spiral path of growth involving search, companionship, chaos, complexity, discovery, persistence, initiations, and finally insight and transformation before the journey begins anew. Two principles of a heroic school (excerpted from the book) that mesh well with our vision of collaboration are as follows:

  • "True learning comes from a fusion of head, heart, and body."
  • "Learning occurs in heroic environments in which motivation is largely intrinsic rather than extrinsic."

With those details in mind, I framed our nascent collaboration efforts to my colleagues as:

COLLABORATION = Teachers as Scholars who are Courageously Committed to a Hero's Journey

In a profession that has been coming under increasing external attack from all sides, I think it is important for teachers to give themselves permission to be heroes and to engage as scholars. I think it is imperative that teachers find and leverage their own intrinsic heroism to elevate the teaching profession. I think it is critical that teachers honor, value, practice, and model lifelong learning in an effort to transform education.

As we had various discussions last year about teacher collaboration time, I captured and saved notes that spoke to our vision. I did not want this vision to get lost and forgotten among the myriad details. Distilling these notes led to the following beautiful and inspiring word cloud about our collaborative vision:

Buried among all the noisy details, our original vision of collaboration re-emerged: Collaboration is a time and opportunity for teachers to engage in scholarly conversations around curriculum, planning, interventions, and equity.

I look forward to beginning a fresh hero's journey during our collaboration time this year.


  1. As a veteran writing teacher, I must say how impressed I am by your eloquence. Your ideas and voice invite all educators and interested parties to read your thoughtful, inspiring wisdom. Your passion for your craft and content are testament to your tremendous efficacy as an educator. My own chldren are evidence of that fact. Well-done, you! MJE

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