This reading is about Anne, who at the middle of her teaching career as a Physical Education Teacher, decides to shift gears and become an 8th grade core subject classroom teacher.

The basis for her entire classroom structure, environment, and motivation was all about utilizing family relations as a meaning-making structure for inquiry.

Her methodology in her “new” core classroom was simply this; by working collaboratively with others, we can not only learn from one another, but we can also learn to respect and appreciate each others ways, knowledge, and experiences.

Sounds great, yet not always the easiest thing to pull off with students. In my opinion, in order for this to work and be an effective classroom method, the structure for how this works needs to be well-defined, as well as constantly monitored and re-inforced. I agree with Anne that we can all learn so very much from one another as long as we are interacting in a proper means of “give and take”. We all need to practice being better listeners and learn how to share information with each other in a way that comes across as “non-condescending” and “non-judgemental”. How hard this is for many of us as adults, and we are trying to get young adults to be able to achieve this “collaborating” task successfully.

In my 7th and 8th grade band, I try to do a “sort of” small group activity with each section. I will allow my clarinets (or my flutes, trumpets, etc.) to go off during a class period and work on the music on their own as a group. I tell them that they are to help each other with notes and rhythms, as well as with correcting fingering problems with notes as well. I don’t want it ever to become a situation where 8th grade band members are telling 7th grade band members what to do, but more of a shared learning experience where the 7th grade band students can learn some musical knowledge from the 8th grade band students, and the 8th grade band students can learn how to help the younger students, as well as become more knowledgable and more understanding of all of the members of their sections’ strengths and weaknesses. It seems to be a productive activity so far because the next day in band all of the band students in that section tend to play their parts much better than they did before they had “section” or “group” collaboration time. After all, bands, choirs, etc. all perform much better together when there is a great deal of “harmony” amongst all members of said groups anyways – and isn’t this one of our main goals to begin with???

I wish, however, that I knew what “co-operative learning” books she (Anne) read from cover to cover to help her establish a structure, along with guidelines to her “collaborative” environment. I’m a big believer in setting parameters and having a detailed outline set before diving into an activity with both feet, so for me, I am sure I would benefit greatly from reading a few “co-operative learning” books cover to cover myself!

Respecting, learning from, and getting to know others outside of our own personal “comfort zone” is not a task any of us go into very open-mindedly. Even as teachers, we tend to “stick” with people in our school who teach our same subject matter, same grade level, or who we have gotten to know by spending time together through various meetings or duty assignments. Hopefully, as educators we can all become better collaborators with each other and be able to share the benefits of this method with all of our students!! Maybe they will even end up being more receptive to “collaborating” and learning from each other as young adults than we are!