Teachers for Teachers | Rowing in the Same Direction
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Rowing in the Same Direction

It is amazing to us how much you can learn spending time collaborating with other educators. We were with Choice Literacy these past two days and our heads are swimming with questions, ideas, connections and possibilities. Yesterday we had the privilege of joining Jen Allen’s session. She left us thinking about so many things, but one image really stuck with us:rowing-spring-training

“If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” Patrick Lencioni

What a powerful image to think about in relation to collaborative learning. Each member is powerful and essential to the team but they need to work together – truly work together – to grow and meet goals.

As we were discussing the role of the coach and professional learning in schools we began to think about how this image could be helpful. At times it is easy to work for the team’s direction and at other times it is more difficult. Jen shared that in these more difficult times it helps her to take a step back and remember that collaboration is not always about getting our way. Sometimes it is about shifting in order to row in the same direction.

As coaches we are always working towards shared leadership and teacher voice in professional collaboration. While we deeply value these beliefs they can often make our work more difficult. It is impossible to honor every person’s point of view and also move forward together. How do we strike a balance? What do we do when a team does not agree on a direction? How do we move forward together?

An Assistant Superintendent that we work with, Jodi Fortuna, shared a protocol with us that we think is helpful when it is time to commit to a decision and we do not have group consensus. Here is how it works:

The decision to be made is stated to the group. Each member gets to vote once. When you vote you can either:

– accept it – means you can live with it
– accept it with reservations
– block it

If someone accepts with reservations they will need to share the reservations they have. If someone blocks it they also need to share why they are blocking it. Discussion takes place after a reservation or block and then the group votes again. We find the protocol works really well because all voices are heard and the “why” behind a person’s concern is shared. Once the group understands why someone is against something it is easier to have a conversation and try to find a common ground. The group can continually revise the decision to be made until the group can accept it.

Change is hard and it comes with many emotions. When we are passionate about what we do it is difficult to change our practice and beliefs. We would never want to lose that passion in our profession. We need passion in collaboration, teaching and learning. Sometimes we need to push through differing points of view to get to a place where we are rowing in the same direction. We find when we engage in this process of collaboration and shared leadership– a process of discourse, questioning, reflecting, and rethinking – we learn and grow the most.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. (Helen Keller) Thanks to all the teachers, coaches and administrators at the Choice Literacy workshop who helped us grow this week!

7 Comments
  • Avatar
    Matt Renwick
    Posted at 01:57h, 19 July Reply

    Terrific post. I really like that image. I am going to save that protocol for future leadership team meetings in my school. Thanks for sharing.

    • Avatar
      aipadmin
      Posted at 02:43h, 19 July Reply

      We have great results with that protocol –look forward to hearing how it works for you!

  • Rowing in the Same Direction | Assessment in Pe...
    Posted at 15:29h, 19 July Reply

    […]   […]

  • Avatar
    Jodi Fortuna
    Posted at 01:38h, 20 July Reply

    I love Patrick Lencioni’s work!

    • Avatar
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 11:02h, 20 July Reply

      Thanks for sharing the protocol with us!

  • Avatar
    katie dicesare
    Posted at 20:11h, 26 July Reply

    Just had a big conversation about collaboration with some teachers this morning and your post really helped. Thanks Clare and Tammy!

  • Avatar
    Loralee Druart
    Posted at 12:32h, 31 May Reply

    Great post!

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