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Real Stories

                From Real Educators

Humility For Effective Collaboration in Schools

I often find myself returning to a chapter in Building School 2.0 entitled Humility Matters, as it reminds me that it is okay to struggle, because the work of teaching and learning is hard. It requires a lot of courage, among all of those involved, to take the risks necessary for real learning to happen. But authors Lehman and Chase are cautious about this courage as it has two edges. They say that courage “can also create a surety that is dangerous” as “the death of any great idea occurs the moment its inventor falls in love with it.” In other words, learning stops the second someone decides that they are too smart to learn from the people around them.

In most schools, it is easy to close the classroom door and teach in a vacuum. It is in these spaces where great teachers are their most comfortable; where they humble themselves for the benefit of their students. In doing so, they model the vulnerability necessary for learning to take place. Even great teachers, however, are often uncomfortable demonstrating the same humility among their colleagues. For some reason, in our professional spaces we sometimes find ourselves posturing, “chest beating,” “drawing firm lines in the sand,” failing to listen actively or “make space for differences.” We bring our best selves to our classrooms, but can the same be said for our faculty meetings, team time, and co-planning sessions?

It is in these spaces, often behind closed doors and in absentia of students, where humility is of the utmost importance. Lehman and Chase remind us that “humility is more than simply listening to dissent.” The type of humility that fosters authentic collaboration requires a selflessness whereby we sacrifice control and embrace the discomfort of cognitive tension to push forward. In other words, humility fosters consensus.

According to Lehmann and Chase, “The death of any great teacher takes place when [they] fall in love with the sound of [their] own voice and stop hearing the voices of the students who would do more than parrot the teacher's voice back at [them].” The same can be said when they stop hearing the voices of the colleagues with whom they exchange cognitive tension. From theory to practice, this means that “wherever you have a mind-set of ‘I’ve got this,’ that's probably the right place to take a humble look at how others can help you improve the practice.”

Tim is a natural science teacher who is committed to inquiry teaching, task based assessment, and educational technology integration. As a teacher leader and leadership scholar, Tim is passionate about promoting continuous school improvement through data analysis and systems design. Tim is also a husband, a father, and a competitive martial artist.

Follow Tim on Twitter @cambrianed

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