I really wanted to write this post today to demonstrate that things don’t always go perfectly for me either. Sometimes when I am presenting or showing videos from my class I hear teachers say things like “not with my kids” or “I could never do that.” The truth is you can, we all can.
Whenever kids work in groups there are days when things go south. Children need to be explicitly taught how to collaborate. Although my kiddos have worked in small groups all year and have had many collaboration lessons our Explore More projects this year provide new challenges. Because we made groups with students from both classes there are kids working together that haven’t had a chance to work together at all, maybe ever. This has been both a wonderful surprise for some groups and a bit of a shock for others. But a good teacher knows that students will need support with collaboration and issues are bound to arise. Don’t get frustrated, teach them!
Today I should have taken my own advice.
I have one group that is really struggling. There are two students who are like oil and water. If one says left the other says right. If one says up the other says down. I really didn’t anticipate this at all. Now, one of these students I am very familiar with and I know that this student has had trouble in the past. Compromise is a word that really needs to be added to their vocabulary. I have to admit that today when I saw a sulking face I was pretty irritated. How many times do I have to teach this student to compromise? How many lessons will it take? How many more times will I have to step in and mediate a conflict or suggest options that can make everyone happy? The answer is…
As many as it takes. So, after I walked away to think on this group I went back and I taught them again. I prompted them with questions. I pushed for compromise. In the end we found a solution that made everyone somewhat happy and the group resolved to communicate with each other in the future instead of shutting down.
I don’t think it will be smooth sailing for this group from here on out. But I hope it will be smoother. Working in teams is a part of life and we all have to find ways to work with people we don’t always get along with. These skills and strategies will last them a life time. So when I feel annoyed I have to remember my own mantra, “don’t get frustrated, teach them!” After all, that is my job.