Collaboration Over Competition

Blog Home  |  May 13, 2019 by Willowstone Academy  |  no comments  |  From the Office


Last summer I was inspired by a teacher mentor of mine via social media.  On the walls of her classroom there was a poster that read, “Collaboration over Competition.”  As I thought about the upcoming year and the atmosphere that I wanted to create within our Grade 3 community I decided to adopt this phrase as an foundational goal.

The idea of working together – rather than competing with each other – is something that ties in beautifully with our Core Competencies and the skills that we want every 21st Century Learner to possess.  Collaboration is a life-skill.  As teachers, one of the ways that we can influence students to work together, is to model collaboration.

As I spent time dreaming about the role of an instructional coach and what matters most for our time together, collaboration quickly rose to the surface as a top priority.  In order to provide “seamless education” we need to know what each educator is thinking and the strategies that they are using to build instruction and learning.  We want to discuss and decide what are truly best practices…however, there never seemed to be quite enough time.

In partnership with our CLO, we determined that a productive use of our Wednesday early dismissals would be to schedule department team meetings to strategically and intentionally discuss issues and instructional practice that pertain to each developmental level – ECE, Primary, Intermediate and Middle Years.  These times together have proven to be invaluable. First and foremost, we are developing friendships as we find ways of working together, allowing for every voice to be heard and for every talent to be appreciated.  Just as we look for ways to include  and value every student in our classroom we are discovering more about each other as we make space for relationships to grow.  As we feel more comfortable as a team, it is easier to be vulnerable and authentic, allowing us to be honest and thoughtful about our practice, as well as our “next steps” towards growth.


Secondly, we have had many opportunities to learn new things!  We have developed ways for students to self-assess core competencies; shared ways to record students’ work on freshgrade; wrestled through questions around best practices in teaching literacy; discussed management strategies; shared information regarding students that will support their ongoing learning, growth and development and learned how to code bots.


The Middle Years team, specifically, has worked on dreaming and creating goals for Middle Years Lane, discerning what matters most and what will best serve each student and their families.  We are grateful for their vision and leadership in this exciting endeavor.


As I reflect on the past year, and all of the collaboration that has taken place.  I am truly grateful for our team!  They are master teachers who care deeply about each student and every family.  They are committed to learning and work diligently to bring their best to this place each day.

In case you are interested, here is a list of some of our Agenda items since September:

  • Share Professional Development plans: What do you need as an individual teacher?
  • Best practices for school-wide write, math, critical thinking
  • Freshgrade posts – using core competencies – Accountability for reflection and deadlines (Developing independence for student posts)
  • Instructional rounds – creating time to observe each other and give feedback around a “Problem of Practice” determined by each team.
  • Personalized skill development groups – students’ needs being met at their level
  • Tips – ideas shared that are working well
  • Report Cards and Student-led conference
  • How to encourage and inspire rigor
  • Writing across the curriculum
  • School-Wide Write – looking at examples from across the grades
  • Make Writing – professional development learning and sharing (Story building with loose parts)
  • Dr. Macnamara’s work on play and meeting emotional needs
  • Daily 5 – refresher on structure, independence and choice
  • Orton-Gillingham information presented by Sherry Parker
  • Robotics integration – critical for innovation, problem solving and thinking
  • Win/Boulder – each month (What is going well…what is a challenge)
  • Discipline policy review
  • Library book orders for home reading
  • Class discipline and management for specialists
  • Fortnight/Roblox information night to see what students are playing at home
  • Documenting events to look for patterns
  • UbD review and collaboration as a team – how to use your unit plans effectively
  • Individual contributions for building our MY program? (Handbook, community educators, documenting steps)
  • Integration of Core Competencies in lessons/interactions, healthy social media use
  • Entrepreneur marketplace
  • Goals – scheduling, blocking, project-based learning
  • How to lean into TEAM – ask powerful questions, acknowledge emotions and reality, self-care.

I hope that brings some insight into how we spend our Wednesday afternoons.

We are better together – for the sake of the children.

Janine Draper