Author: Shella Zelenz
We hear a lot of talk about collaboration in the work place. We hear about it working in our classrooms. What does collaboration really look like? Is it something that comes from a trickle down organizational planning? Is it organic and something that creates itself out of the collective inspiration of a group? How can this be the most effective in the classroom? How do we work with it when given so many restrictions with the expectations of the "orders from the top?" Well, I have my own opinion about the orders from the top the same as many of you, I suspect. I am a radical at heart, and I have never once allowed any external party dictate how I run my own classroom. What perplexed these powers from above was how I accomplished so much even though I didn't follow the rules. That either made them angry or piqued their curiosity to learn more.
I am a music teacher, musician really, by trade. Yes, music has rules and concepts that provide order and must be understood in order to fully succeed in the context of creating music. However, jazz didn't really follow the rules, yet they ended up making their own rules which later became a norm. Jazz musicians followed what felt right, and look what manifested as a result! We are so lucky to have their contributions to the musical world today. Without jazz, rock and roll would never have occurred (12-bar blues was the root of rock and roll chordal patterns). Musicians, throughout all of history, have never been complacent rule followers. They are professional rule breakers, rebels against societal confines, and yet simultaneously the most crucial impactors of the entire world. Funny how that works, isn't it?!
As educators, I think we need to be more like musicians. I mean, we have the impact of the world in our very hands. We hold the future generations right in front of us every single day. What do you want to create for your future world? What kind of life do you want for these children when they grow older? I personally want to know what they have to bring to the table because they are here with fresh eyes and creativity many adults have long forgotten. They are born in a time we are just now trying to understand, but this is their root normal. How can we truly tell them what to do when we're just now figuring out what they already see as the way the world naturally is for them? Like when VCRs first came out. Who taught the adults in the house how to use it? The kids usually did.
I offer one final piece to share how collaboration in the classroom can create real learning. The following video is a song by one of my favorite female sitar players, Anoushka Shankar. What I want you to notice while you listen to this piece is how the music has no predictable pattern. The music is made up as it goes. The other musicians play what they feel as it goes. No one has sheet music. No one has a script. There is no end goal. It is just to participate collectively to create. Now tell me how amazing what they created is. This is genius represented in the most beautiful platform. I highly encourage you to unleash the genius in your classrooms. Let the students lead themselves and follow one another and create beauty and ingenuity through their instincts rather than controlling where the outcome should go for them. After you do that, please, let me know how it went. I can't wait to hear your experiences!