The Way of the Raven: Collaboration
Months ago, when I first started writing about my new adventure as the Theatre Teacher and Electives Lead for Riverdale Ridge High School, I wrote about The Way of the Raven. This was my shameless plug for what I hoped would become the school’s tagline.
Much to my excitement, “The Way of the Raven” has caught on. In a particularly humbling moment, I got to watch the installation of those words in the Student Commons of our school this past week. I’m going to be honest, it made me tear up a little. To be heard and to know I get to contribute to helping build this amazing community is a reminder of why all the hard work matters.
For me the concept of a tagline allows for all of the members of a community to ascribe their vision of what the shared language could mean. In presenting our “way” in these beginning years, we are allowing ourselves the room to adjust and flex without being stuck on the semantics of particular words or phrases that are usually built into team mottos. Winter Is Coming hasn’t always helped the Starks make the most self-preserving of decisions, if ya know what I mean (if you don’t, you are behind on your pop culture and a shameful human being.).
We have decided that instead of building a motto, we would leave The Way of the Raven open to new words as they come. I wanted to share the first word I think has been paramount to our way of the Raven. Collaboration.
In these weeks leading up to our building opening, I have seen a group of people from all over come together in pursuit of building something new. In the rush to get everything accomplished, I wanted to take a moment and highlight a couple instances of collaboration I’ve experienced in just the past week that are making me so proud to be a Raven.
The first came out of a particularly challenging conversation the Teacher Leader Team had at our latest meeting. As the rubber is starting to meet the road and we are having to dig into the details of our grand ideas, we are having to work through agreements and disagreements. We were talking through the use of our shared planning template. It is a document all departments and all teachers will be using to help us build our curriculum. As the Teacher Leader Team was working through clarity, I was getting flustered because our understandings of the template were clearly varied. I was struggling to communicate out of two issues; one was that I myself was still learning the template and its vocabulary the other was that I didn’t have the confidence in my explanation. I am an admittedly emotional person in those moments and I could feel myself getting tense. Collaboration is difficult, folks.
It was in my moment of uncertainty and feeling a little scratchy that, while difficult, collaboration showed its true potential. One of the key elements of collaboration is knowing when and how to lean on the strengths of your collaborators. In my moment of confusion, my neighbor, the wonderful Melissa Trambley, turned and asked me to walk just her through my thoughts. Melissa is our Instructional Coach and the much needed calm in my moment. As I talked through my thoughts with her I found a little more confidence in my thoughts.
After that meeting, Melissa took my thoughts and her own brain power and research and put it into a beautiful document that I know will help our entire team understand and process through this new planning process we have created. It was the perfect example of collaboration because it demonstrated the pursuit of a shared purpose through the trust of the skills of each collaborator. Melissa was able to find a way to communicate what I was struggling to.
My second example of collaboration came from the magnificent Lori Jones, our Math Teacher Lead. We are also introducing a school-wide form process for re-do’s and missing/late work. All of our students are expected to complete these specific forms as demonstrations of continued work towards their completion of standards. This was actually a really cool, organic and concrete solution to something the Teacher Leader Team all agreed should be a driving value in our classrooms.
Lori took the lead on these Google Forms and whipped up some awesome forms in a way that I hadn’t thought to do it and that was a better solution for kids than what I had in mind.
I am a Google Junkie and I’m not afraid to admit it. I love playing with Google Forms and their accompanying spreadsheets. I’ve learned a lot of quick tips and tricks to get the data you want from a form as quickly as possible. I was excited to see Lori’s solution and share my giddiness with her.
We met for coffee and we started exploring and talking through the forms. It was a real moment of “Yes, and…”, that classic improv rule of collaboration wherein you always support your partners work and build off of it. I had a genuine bit of fun collaborating on the forms with Lori. We left our meeting with homework for both of us at the start of this week. Then my week went all to hell with a flat tire and partially shipped orders and an emergency quick trip to IKEA (is there such a thing as a quick trip to IKEA?). Lori has been graciously checking in on my bits that admittedly fell down my to-do list. I need to publicly tell Lori thank you for being such a wonderful collaborator who is willing to support with positivity and work.
As this team of Ravens comes together, I am certain that more defining words will bubble up, but for the moment, I am so happy that the first one is collaboration. Collaboration is about trust and candor, or maybe perhaps candor through trust. Collaboration is about shared purpose and individual support. Collaboration is less about who dunnit than it is about it getting done. It is about difficult conversations made less difficult by positivity and pace. Collaboration is about whole picture first, individual pursuits second. Collaboration is about rolling up your sleeves, figuring out where things are, and doing the hard work to get them where you want them to be. Through all of this, collaboration is clearly “The Way of the Raven.”