I picked up the March 2006 edition of Educational Leadership. An article entitled “Improving Relationships Within the Schoolhouse” by Roland Barth caught my attention. The bottom line is this:
Relationships among educators within a school range from vigorously healthy to dangerously competitive. Strengthen those relationships, and you improve professional practice.
Barth lumps professional relationships into four categories—
- Parallel Play: akin to kids playing individually in the sandbox
- Adversarial: “We educators have drawn our wagons into a circle and trained our guns—on each other.”
- Congenial: personal and friendly, often revolving around food
- Collegial: “Getting good players is easy. Getting ’em to play together is the hard part.”
Of course, collegiality is where the true gold can be found in our profession. It is the essence of Professional Learning Communities. It is marked by engaging in professional discourse, sharing craft knowledge, and participating in structured peer observations in a climate of mutual support and respect.
Administrators can facilitate this process by stating expectations clearly, modeling collegiality, rewarding those who behave as colleagues, and protecting those who engage in collegial behaviors.
It boils down to organizational efficiencies. Michael Schmoker is a good K-12 resource on this topic. Good corporate reads with K-12 application include Good to Great (Collins) and, my favorite, The No-Asshole Rule (Sutton).
Coaching literature is huge on the topic of creating effective organizations. Dale and Janssen’s “The Seven Secrets of Successful Coaches” has great application to improving school climate and culture.
I’ve been wondering a lot lately about the relationship between my technology responsibilities and my athletic responsibilities. Today, on my bike ride, I finally made the connection. Both technology and athletics endeavor to optimize human performance and potential.
If we intend to make our organizations the best they can be all-the-while serving the best interest of students, we all need to be in this together.