Lately, my thoughts have been drifting to collaboration since the term is so commonly bandied about. I keep hearing that collaboration is among the 21st Century skills our students will need to be competitive and successful.

I wonder, does collaboration come naturally to students and adults? Can we assume that all people in learning organizations will generally understand and practice such things as teamwork, synergy, negotiation, compromise, constructive conflict, conflict resolution, and cooperation? If collaboration is going to be so key to the future, what are we doing not only to prepare our charges but also to model best practice?

I always believe in the preponderance of good will among people, and that good will positively influences collaborative efforts. But in human dealings—or collaborations—there is no guarantee that good will even prevails.

In a recent workshop that dealt with effectively managing difficult educators, I met the dysfunctional gorillas in the living room: the whiners, the negaholics, the control freaks, the passive aggressives, the bullies, the socially awkward, the resistants, the narrow-minded, the uncooperative, the non-communicators, the creeps, the jerks, the tormentors, the despots, the egomaniacs, the saboteurs, the type A’s, the agenda-driven, the self-promoters, the drill sergeants, the back stabbers, the know-it-alls, the hotheads . . .

Aside from at times facing the gorilla in the mirror, I thought to myself: “We as adults struggle in dealing with difficult people. It zaps our energy, creativity, time, soul. It creates organizational drag.”

Kids can have the same quirky interpersonal attributes that we adults have. So, when we put our students into groups to collaborate, have we prepared them with human relations skills and strategies that can bring divergence, even dysfunction, to common ground for the greater good?


One Response to Collaboramble

  1. Lisa Raines says:

    I think the best way to teach them how to collaborate is to let them do it and then correct and redirect during those inevitable “teachable moments” that always occur when humans work with other humans. Their skills will build the more they work in groups. The thing I find most difficult is teaching those type A’s to let go and motivate the non-participators to get involved. The type A’s always want to just take over and do the whole project. The non-participators are always willing to let them do it.

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