Collaboration – Often times, we wonder or talk to people who are curious about the reasons why we should collaborate with our colleagues in various roles in the realm of education. Some teachers once asked me why they should help their colleagues improve (doing peer observation or peer teaching, for instance) when their work in the different classrooms was not necessarily connected. I remember the first time someone questioned the professional requirement of helping colleagues in a context. I found it really strange that people had to ask teachers to collaborate, as I believed in a passion for sharing and contributing to a successful teaching team.
Nowadays, I am still shocked that brilliant ideas are not necessarily shared, and that some teachers prefer to work on their own all the time and choose not to contribute to the development of their colleagues. It seems that teaching lessons is a competition with our colleagues when I feel we should compete with our own professional selves in order to teach a better lesson for the learners we are currently touching/ affecting. Instead of feeling better in comparison to others, feeling improved in an ever-growing educational environment.
In some schools, a teacher will follow a group through from beginning to end of their English learning life, whereas in others the group has a different teacher every semester. Sometimes learners go from one school to another, in a very organic way. In any case, learners can simply be seen as learners of English, not as X’s or Y’s students. Much as our egos love when students state that we were their best teachers and when they compare us to others, our mission as educators should be beyond that, I think.
In this sense, as English language teachers, we should look at any (potential) learner with some degree of accountability for their progress. That means collaboration and sharing among teachers is fundamental to the quality of English language teaching in general. Helping a novice teacher to develop skills, or aiding an experienced teacher to build on their repertoire could then be part of our scope, if we dream of positively impacting the English language teaching scenario in our schools, in our region or the country. Thinking back at the concept of comparison with others, this could also be seen positively: if our colleagues develop and improve, this may raise the bar we look at, encouraging our own improvement. As a group, we would be looking at growing quality in language teaching, where parameters would reach higher as a result of collaborative effort.
This is but one way of looking at language education and professional success as a collective goal; it is as the proverb ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’. As BRAZ-TESOLers we summarise it in: ‘the more we are, the stronger we become’. If we want to be stronger and strengthen our profession, shall we join forces with a common goal? What are your views on this topic?