Time is tyrannical. It strong-arms my work to fit, to conform, to be done without allowing me processing time–the conversation required for me to think out loud and for my colleagues to respond.
When I try to work within the parameters of job-embedded professional learning, the pressure is ever-present. The tick-tock of the clock, eyes shifting upward, phones flicking on & off; time taps its foot, and if I don’t respond, pouts. We are not done, but time is out: papers shuffle, chairs scuffle, apologies mumbled.
The power of the collaborative inquiry is real–if we only have time for it.
I have the extraordinary opportunity to work-learn with an educator who has battled time and won. With her (@CarolineBlack39), I have (we have, I am sure) experienced the
satisfaction thrill of deep collaborative learning.
Let me back up a bit.
We know that “we are better together”, and that working in isolation is now a choice. We know that “CI requires a safe, inclusive environment built on trusting relationships”. We know that “genuine learning can only take place when we collectively accept that learning is not about knowing all the right answers, but about struggling together to find them, without being intimidated by the mistakes that are inevitably made along the way” (In Conversation). And we know that ongoing learning is not a choice. Jim Knight says it well…
To help educators begin this work, various frameworks have been designed like the Ontario Ministry of Education’s organizing framework for CI processes, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s The Disciplined Collaboration model, and Jenni Donohoo’s step-by-step guide to collaborative inquiry. What all the frameworks have in common is the acknowledgment that CI can only succeed if “trusting relationships” exist so that educators can ” struggle safely”. Stephen Katz and Lisa Ain Dack in their book Intentional Interruption, suggest that professional learning only takes place when there is permanent change in practice, and to get there our current thinking must be intentionally challenged. We need to be pushed beyond what we think we know, past the head nodding and the congenial (historic? predictable?) conversations. Stephen Hurley builds on the Katz/Dack comment “most people if left to their own devices will talk by defaulting to the lowest common denominator of agreement” by asking us to consider what might happen if the criteria for professional learning includes the notion of intentional interruption. When we learn to monitor the thinking that emerges from within our conversations, we might be reminded of the need to be challenged.
That’s powerful stuff.
Intentionally interrupt assumptions
Push past the echo chamber
Work within an organizing framework
This is the recipe for a good professional learning opportunity, and “good” is a goal. But to get to the kind of professional learning that is fearless, energizing, contagious and yes even, joyful, another ingredient is needed—time.
Of course, job-embedded time (not release time) for educators to meet and learn together is a must. (School boards and unions need to figure this one out.) And yet, even this amount of time is not enough to satiate the appetite for learning together, once tasted. It’s not enough when the work/learning you do together can, for example, closes gaps in students’ learning by years.
And that’s the battle: to allow yourself the time to deeply invest in your practice.