“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” John Lennon spoke these words of truth and all change begins as just that, a dream. As educators, we need to collaborate with each other to bring dreams of change into the real world of our schools. Collaborative relationships, regardless of number of participants or roles, must occur among professionals who first see each other as equal partners who decide together to work through a shared learning process based on trust. Once all participants agree to enter into a partnership, the group can begin to form the collaborative relationship.
How can we form and maintain collaborative relationships? This essential question is not easily answered. Whether collaborating as a pair, small group, or large group, begin with the creation of working agreements. Working agreements can be created concerning any number of areas, but four critical questions must be answered:
1) What is the focus and/or goal of our work together?
2) What can be shared with others (teachers and school administration) and what is confidential about our work together?
3) What are the boundaries of our work?
4) How will we provide honest feedback to each other?
Once working agreements have been created, the work can begin, but it is not enough to create working agreements at the beginning of a collaborative relationship. These agreements must be maintained through honest feedback and conversation. This maintenance should happen periodically and these “check-ups” may need to be scheduled at first.
The creation and maintenance of working agreements form the foundation of strong relationships. With this strong foundation, we can begin to meet the challenge of Henry Ford who said,”Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”