The power of collaboration

Usha Raman

April is a month of transition. In many parts of the country, it marks a shift from not-so-hot to really hot, from somewhat pleasant to somewhat hot; the trees begin to look bare and dusty; mangoes begin to emerge from the greenery as plump yellow fruit. Depending on the school board, children are finishing examinations and looking forward to summer, or moving from the end of one class to the beginning of the next.

For us at Teacher Plus, too, it is a month when we have a little bit of a breather, as we prepare for the next issue, which has always been a subject special spanning the months of May and June. We get to skip a month of publication but have to double up in effort, as we really put a lot into producing this bumper issue – we have a wider range of contributors and a larger number of contributions, and sometimes, we invite collaboration from an individual or an organization that can bring a valuable perspective and considerable expertise to the chosen topic. This year, we are excited to be working with a group called We The People, who are helping us put together a stimulating and informative package on Civics Education – so stay tuned for that!

Collaboration is a complex and messy affair, but completely worth it. As educators, we often get locked into our own little bubbles, and unless there is a specific need or a directive from above, we rarely talk to each other (apart from the staffroom gossip and friendly personal exchanges) about substantive issues, let alone explore the possibilities of working together. Each of us has our set of notes, ideas and practices acquired over the years, and we develop a level of close familiarity – even attachment – to these, and we become reluctant to move beyond that zone of comfort. Collaboration, on the other hand, requires us to open up to someone else’s bank of knowledge and expertise, as well as show our own for their examination. The idea is to learn from each other and develop a teaching project that can draw on each other’s strengths, in the process creating something new and possibly, doubly interesting.

This process begins with conversation, and a willingness to consider new ways of working outside and inside the classroom. It implies giving up a sense of “knowing” to make way for a sense of “discovering” teaching practice. The most rewarding aspect of such collaborations – between science and social studies, between art and mathematics, between sports and language – is not only the benefit for our students, but the learning for ourselves.

Of course, many of you may already be doing this, in formal and informal ways. If so, we’d love to hear about it. Your stories can help us think more deeply about collaborative teaching practices and help our readers begin working towards it in their own schools and learning spaces.

But for now…enjoy the mangoes, the summer sun, and the break!