When good teachers get together . . . collaboration happens. There doesn't need to be "a teacher" or an assignment. In the Invitational Summer Institute this past month, teachers decided to collaborate across grade levels, asking their students to write for and work with each other. For example, Jeromy's first graders and Erin's English tenth grade English language learners are going to be sharing their work with each other. And Elva has some great ideas about asking her students to translate their understanding of principles of biology into picture books for elementary school kids.
When good teachers get together . . . they want to practice what they've learned. Our ISI participants wanted to try out digital storytelling, so they are working on videos we can use to promote our site.
When good teachers get together . . . they reflect on their teaching. Our ISI Fellows weren't intimidated when we asked them to do teacher research. They are going to try integrating a new strategy in their teaching, exploring the effects on student learning and reporting back to us on our first post-Institute day.
When good teachers get together . . . knowledge is not only shared, it is constructed. Our ISI participants shared their teaching experience--and they created new understandings of teaching. Together, we figured out new applications of technology in educational settings. I'm committed to creating an ENGL 131 that will allow me to employ (and practice) the new knowledge I've gained from working with this group of teachers.
I have really enjoyed working with the SJVWP ISI 2010 Fellows. They are an amazing group of teachers and really wonderful human beings. I'm excited to see how their pedagogy will shift over the coming year. I'm convinced that they will do all kinds of great things in their teaching careers.
During spring break, I made my first visit to London. While there, I went to the Gilbert & George exhibit at the Tate Modern. (I first became acquainted with their art in the early 90's when I saw one of their pieces at MOMA in New York. I even have a funny photograph in which it appears that my friend Tom is holding hands with Gilbert & George--who always include their own images in their art. The exhibit has ended but you can still experience it virtually at the Tate Modern's website.)
In one of the first rooms, one of the "sculptures" (they call their pieces sculptures and label themselves as performance artists) contains the caption: "We believe that love is the path for a better world of art in which good & bad give way for Gilbert and George to be." This idea intrigues me--it points towards the relationship of the couple Gilbert & George with the artists Gilbert & George. And it positions them as outside of attempts to evaluate what is good and bad art.
What seems to matter here is the creation. the collaboration, not any specific finished product.
I've been thinking a lot about collaboration lately. I'm amazed that Gilbert & George could have such an intense personal and professional relationship for so many years--that, at least to the general public, they seem to have worked and grown together. I realize that what they present in their art doesn't necessarily include the fissures and challenges of their relationship, but the fact that any difficulties can be overcome to produce something so fascinating . . . well, that's remarkable.
Recently, in my own work with the Writing Project, I've been beginning (finally) to understand the joys of collaboration. Yesterday, we had our second meeting--this year, it feels like no one in particular is in charge. As a control freak, that has been a little difficult for me. But yesterday, I had many moments in which I really loved that we were collaborating effectively. Everyone in the leadership team contributes--we're all willing to do what needs to be done in order to create a good workshop.
What I realized yesterday is that I don't have to do it all. I'm working with smart, hard working people who will do their part. And that's what I've been experiencing for the last year.