Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cooperation VS Collaboration

https://www.pinterest.com/rmetka/montessori-lower-elementary-6-9/
The terms cooperation and collaboration are not often or easily distinguishable, but doing so and understanding the difference can be very beneficial in the classroom and among co-workers. One important distinction is “active” and “inactive” participation. Someone can be inactive or silent and still be cooperating. When collaborating, everyone has an active role. If someone is simply being compliant, they can be considered to be cooperating. That is not the case with collaboration. There is shared action with collaboration. With cooperation, someone can simply give someone help to achieve something. When cooperating a person is making or helping someone to be able to do or achieve something. Collaboration offers the help along side someone or some people to achieve something together.

A Montessori Classroom offers the opportunities for both throughout every single day. Here is an example of collaboration from my classroom. One boy had the idea to create a timeline of the history of the Titanic. Several other boys joined in on the idea. They helped each other do research, draw, write and color on the timeline. As the guide, I had very little to no part in it, and my assistance was not necessary. One boy got the idea from a book to contact someone from the book. He asked an adult for help in contacting him to get some more or unique information. He emailed a historian who helped with the movie “Titanic.” The man responded and they were able to exchange and get new information for their work. This great work had many other benefits besides completing a project together. Everyone had a shared work to do to accomplish a goal, and they all played active roles, while there was no dictating. This is what a Montessori classroom makes room for. Below is an interesting diagram of cooperative and collaborative learning.
Public and traditional schools mostly offer cooperative learning opportunities and very rarely if at all offer collaborative learning. When a Montessori guide gives a lesson, there is cooperative learning between him/her and the student(s) to understand new information. A follow-up lesson gives way to more cooperation to reach the goal of understanding, remembering and/or applying. Yet, if students get an idea to do something different together, which leads them to learn something new (a different goal), those students are collaborating. Now, both cooperative and collaborative learning styles are happening in the classroom.

What about looking at the school as a unit? A school has a mission that is usually developed by one person, the founder. Cooperation is where the parents agree to follow the policies, pay tuition, get their children to school in hopes that the guides and other students will cooperate to help their children learn and be better than when they are dropped off. Some parents do not even think that much about it, they do not even play much of an active role, other than getting their children to school. However, here is a different outlook on collaboration for the school as a unit.

A Montessori school wants to play an active role in children’s education. Families want to play an active role in their children’s education. The basics of cooperation are met. Payment is made, children’s needs are cared for, and parents drop students off on time and come to conferences. Before the children are accepted or start, there is an agreement of goals that are to be attained for their children through a collaborative conversation between head of school, guide and parents. The school provides information that the parents can do at home to facilitate their child’s growth and development. There is also a monthly night of engagement between school and parents to nurture the parents’ understanding of happenings in the classroom and to share information or ask questions about experiences that are happening at home. Then the school takes an active role in creating solutions if necessary. Sometimes, even just the act of sharing helps others with what they are going through, or may go through, in the future. There is not so much lecturing as there is the sharing of information to come to new knowledge, expressing it and being able to apply it for another’s benefit. It is a group work and not a facilitator structured work. By default, it can be argued that there is a facilitator or leader, but beyond that there is a group agreement for group work based on a common goal where everyone plays an active role.

In conclusion, there are many similarities, even with the etymology. Yet, collaboration requires active and group oriented work. By work, I mean the actual meaning of the word, a sustained physical and mental effort to achieve goal(s) or overcome obstacles. While there can be cooperation (working together) during collaboration there cannot be true collaboration during cooperation. When the facilitation to achieve a goal is led by someone, and there is at least one person taking an inactive role, by simply complying, the work is cooperative.

With that said, our goals should include to understand collaboration and cooperation. Have or create more opportunities to allow for collaboration. Get parents involved to collaborate and not just cooperate. Heads of schools and schools would benefit by collaborating with each other to help make the school and school policies better. This is assuming that the head of school is creating a space with staff who want the same thing as the head of school and are willing to work together to get there. This takes humility and good communication skills on the part of at least the head of school. If schools, or even guides, can start with this understanding and applying it at least to their classroom and parents, it would be amazing to see what the reported difference would be before having this awareness.
Please share your thoughts comments and experiences so others can benefit from your insights!

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Resourcefulness: Leading as a Parent, Teacher, or Administrator



Dictionary.com states that being resourceful is being able to deal skillfully and promptly with new situations, difficulties, etc. Anthony Robbins states that “it’s not the lack of resources, it’s the lack of resourcefulness that stops you.” A lack of resources should not be a sign to give up and quit, but a sign to show us that it is time to be resourceful. I have been consciously studying resourcefulness for a few months now. Because of all I have written about this year, and because a new calendar year is beginning, I thought wrapping up the year and starting the new one talking about resourcefulness would be a good idea.

One’s ability to be a great leader in the situation they are in is dependent upon how resourceful they can and/or choose to be. If you let a conflict with your child, student or co-worker stop you from flowing, then you are not being resourceful. Maybe you are too tired, someone else wants your attention, you have something better to do than to deal with it, or something else needs to get done. Eventually, a cycle, a pattern is created and you develop a bad habit in your interactions with that person or avoidance of your interactions with that person. Here, I am applying the idea of resourcefulness to your interactions with people and not a lack of physical resources. We do not lack resources to resolve something frustrating. What we lack is the awareness to step out of the cycle or situation and to look at it from the perspective of a hawk. Sometimes we have to be the observer, see the picture from a different angle, and imagine the different points of view of those involved. Yet, that is only part of it. Being resourceful is more than that.

At this point, if you google the word resourceful, 16,400,000 results pop up. People are studying and doing research on its importance and role. The University of Oxford Department of Education published a study entitled, “Resourceful Leadership: How Directors of Children’s Services Improve Outcomes for Children.” On page 13 it identifies 8 core behaviors that resourceful directors of children’s services displayed.

  1. Openness to possibilities
  2. The ability to collaborate
  3. Demonstrating a belief in their team and people
  4. Personal resilience and tenacity
  5. The ability to create and sustain commitment across a system
  6. Displaying a focus on results and outcomes
  7. The ability to simplify
  8. The ability to learn continuously


They found that the most effective leaders who were being resourceful were differentiated in two clear ways: 
They were able to select the right set of behaviors for a given challenge and most importantly know why the behaviors would be most effective. 
They were able to draw on a broader and deeper set of relevant knowledge, skills and attributes, to help make those behaviors as effective as possible in their contexts. 

Wow, now that is a lot to take in, I know. How do we apply it to our everyday lives? I’m just trying to not feel so frustrated with my student, child or co-worker, or I can’t seem to get my child to go to bed. My child won’t eat. My husband/wife seriously gave this crazy consequence to our child. I have felt like there has been tension between these two teachers, I have not addressed it or no matter what I do it keeps getting worse. Some of these are examples of what I think we are looking for to be able to apply this awareness of being resourceful. 

Whether we are in the midst of the conflict or mediating the conflict, any or all of these 8 core behaviors are applicable. Even they are not enough. We have to also be humble. If we are mediating or directly involved, people need to sense genuine humility or they will not respect what we have to say. That humility also should accompany a sense of confidence. Being willing to ask someone "smarter" for help is incorporating humility and utilizing a sense of resourcefulness. Sometimes we do not know the answers and we have to ask someone else. One purpose of life is to evolve. There are always smarter people. We should utilize them as a resource. At times it is not a matter of smarter people, but people who have more experience. We need to humble ourselves to look to those people and/or their experiences. In turn we become that person for someone else who looks to glean from us.

Let’s look at a practical example of how to apply resourcefulness. I’d like to give a wide example in hopes that it reaches many people so that they can apply something from the example. I'm going to break down a general example into the 8 core behaviors.


1. Openness to possibilities

So, just imagine that I started my own Montessori School and that I also am still teaching elementary aged children between 9 and 12 years old. Now, let’s just say that when I started this endeavor I learned the importance of waking up each day with the awareness that the possibilities were endless and that I would be open to possibilities. I did not have to wait until this experience to start doing this, but having this experience is what triggered it. So, no matter what we do, we have to start and maintain our day with that concept and act as if possibilities are endless. Before long, we see the benefits of being open to possibilities and maintaining an awareness that possibilities are endless. 


2. The ability to collaborate

As a Montessori teacher, years ago, I realized that the ability to collaborate is essential. We cannot maintain a successful classroom or successful anything without collaboration, so I decided to make this applicable to the mission of the school I started and to be more conscious of applying it to all aspects of my life. I soon had the opportunity to be aware of something special. 


3. Demonstrating a belief in their team and people

I naturally believe in my students, and more times than not, I get great results. Unfortunately, sometimes, belief is not enough. However, it is important. The people around you, or who work for you need to know intrinsically that you believe in them. Sometimes, they give you reason not to. Regardless, of what they show you, people always give you something to work with, so believe in that. People come and go in our life. So, believe in them or that part of them until they go or you go. Who knows what kind of positive impact that will have on them or because of your belief what positive impact that will have on the next person they interact with. Conversely, why should we be negative about a person or situation and handle it poorly? Ultimately, it leads to more stress and frustration than handling it well.

Continuing on in a hypothetical example. I get to school and I know I have a child who is going to be disruptive, probably not going to do much “work,” but this child has potential and this child shows me that he/she can realize this potential. This is where resourcefulness comes in. I have to believe in the child, focus on that, and he/she has to believe me. So, I have to connect with this child. That is the most important thing... connecting. I have to, not only collaborate with the child and parents, but also with the children. They all have to know that I believe in all of them to make this work, to help this child make the change for themselves that they need to make. The child’s heart, myself, and the people around this child are my greatest resources. 


4. Personal resilience and tenacity

Next, I have to have a personal resilience and tenacity. My stance must be unwavering and everyone must feel it. It is not always perceived as a firm restrictive stance. Sometimes it is a smile and positive attitude focusing on the good and not the frustrating. What you feed will get bigger. It’s a natural law. 


5. The ability to create and sustain commitment across a system

Everyone has to know that I have a commitment to create and sustain this system and method for this person and really now this group. We now have a common unwavering goal, which is reiterated on a regular basis. Being trained in Montessori gives us an advantage to be better at being resourceful.


7. The ability to simplify

Now goals are simplified at different levels for the people who need them, but the leader knows the goal, mini goals and who needs to focus on what, so we are simplifying and distributing goals to be achieved. Collaboration is happening now. The leader (parent, teacher, administrator) must continuously learn. People are always changing, taking two steps back or evolving. 


8. The ability to learn continuously

We have to continuously learn. There is always something new to learn, adapt to or try differently. If all of these things are happening and used as tools then many different things happen. A few things that happen in this example are that the disruptive child finds peace, acquires life skills, and makes a more positive impact on him/herself and those around them. The children around him/her learn change is possible, patience, resilience, conflict resolution, the importance of collaboration, life skills and several other things. The parents obviously experience the joy and outcome of being collaborative loving parents in a Montessori school. Of course, I also feel fulfilled in my purpose among other things.

In conclusion, I know things do not always go as planned and we do not always feel successful. Sometimes it turns out that, on the surface, we are not successful. However, if we stay the course and do things like this or similar, then we are successful! We cannot control people, but we can control ourselves. There are times when success is not what we thought it was going to be. Sometimes it is about our own personal success in what we learned, how we handled a situation and how that changes us in a positive way for the future. So much is here, and these 8 core behaviors are applicable to smaller situations too, whether it is getting a child to bed, talking back, a disgruntled employee, or potty training. Not to come across as cliché, but life is a school and there are infinite resources available. We just need to be humble enough and dedicated enough to exercise the muscle of resourcefulness, just as we would our bodies at the gym.