Saturday, August 27, 2016

Collaboration Bling

Jimmy Casas is the principal of Bettendorf High School in Iowa (#bettpride), and he is a master at building school culture.  I heard him speak this summer, and he talked about "collaboration badges" at his school.  I believe teachers are stronger when they collaborate. "Iron sharpens iron," "two heads are better than one," and that sort of thing.  For you educators out there, this concept is nothing new; collaboration has actually become something of a cliche.  But in my experience, this cliche is rock solid. Collaboration is indeed, a powerful practice.  I thought about Jimmy's badges the whole way home from the conference, and determined that we must find a way to tweak that concept to work for us. So at our school this year, we are launching a competition simply called: "Collaboration Bling."  Teachers names are posted on a bulletin in our work room, and this contest will run throughout the year.  Teachers will accumulate arrow head stickers (cause we're the Thompson Warriors) and can earn them three ways: through observing a teacher, through inviting a teacher to observe him or her, or through participating in a Twitter chat.



For every five stickers, teachers earn bling ... which in our case, is a black or red carabiner with our school hashtag.  The five teachers with the most bling at the end of the year will receive a release day. Last year, all of our classroom teachers were trained to observe teachers using AdvancED's research based instrument known as eleot(TM).  This is the Effective Learning Environments Observation Tool.  When our teachers observe a colleague, there is obvious benefit from seeing another teacher in action, but because our teachers are trained to complete the eleot(TM), they are able to give meaningful and reliable feedback to their colleague.  This feedback component adds value to the experience for the teacher being observed.

Just two weeks into the school year, and we already have a lot of stickers on our board ... and I have already given out bling! (I use a Google Form and Google Sheet to document and keep up with all the collaboration.) Creating little stickers of validation for teachers and recognizing the collaboration when it happens goes a long way toward building the type of school culture that makes a difference for students.  If you want to reinforce a more collaborative culture within your faculty, give something like this a try.  And Jimmy ... thanks for being you.

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