I read this great quote from Pratik Dholakiya about the danger of working in a silo.
“Much as we believe that we are most productive in our little silos, the fundamental fact remains that humans are social animals. By denying the opportunity to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas, businesses contribute to their own speedy demise.”
All too often, teachers end up working in a silo. Here is the drill: get to school, check-in (whatever that looks like at your school), go to your room and sometimes not come out until lunch. And where do many teachers eat? Their classrooms, of course, because they have to get things ready for the science experiment after lunch or check email at breakneck speed before they rush back to the cafeteria to grab their kids. Oh wait, what if they have to go to the bathroom, you ask? No worries, they just break Guinness Records for “Longest holding of the urine!” Yea! Give the teacher a blue ribbon!
But, as Dholakiya says, we are social animals and we need to collaborate in order to be our best. So, successful teachers all over the country are figuring out how to make time to cross-pollinate with their teams. In the elementary school where I used to be the principal, we actually cross-pollinated with a neighboring elementary school for every one of our professional development days. What a great way to see what other people are doing! And so great for Carolyn and I to be able to watch each other lead our teams. Sharing ideas can be intimidating, though, can’t it? What if someone thinks my idea is stupid? What if it takes more time than just doing it myself? What if I don’t get my way? All of these questions and many more just like it keep people from wanting to collaborate. And yet…many teachers (and educational leaders, by the way) have found that if they are willing to just be a little bit vulnerable, the changes can be beautiful. All of a sudden, I am sharing grain with another silo; sometimes we eat mine, sometimes we eat yours, sometimes we mix it up in one crazy grain-conglomeration. The point is that ideas shared can be so much better than always going it alone.
As a consultant who works with teachers all over the country, even the world as I just came back from working with the most wonderful, lovely teachers in Bogota, Colombia, I need to do the same thing. And as one of the biggest blessings in my life, so many of my colleagues and I truly enjoy sharing ideas. Dar happens to be one of my favorite traveling buddies. We just drove up to a Navajo reservation in Northeast Arizona to teach teachers up there about good teaching. The drive is long—about 5 ½ hours each way. I can honestly say that, during the drive up and the drive back, we never turned on the radio. Instead, we talked the entire time, much of it spent sharing ideas about upcoming trainings. Give and take, share and laugh, eat and drink, laugh and share, rinse and repeat.
One good idea from a single person can become a better idea when shared with a colleague. How can we encourage more of this collaboration? If we know it works to build teamwork, better ideas, and more productivity, it is incumbent upon us to facilitate more and more collaborative groups in every school in the country, no, even the world!
To finish with a silo joke, What did the calf say to the silo? “Is my fodder in there?”