Five essential steps to building a collaborative culture

I am often asked, in my role as district counsellor, how to build a collaborative culture among teachers.

Collaborative cultures – or ‘ConnectZones’ – are connected cultures and there are five essential steps to build them.

1. I encourage folks to invest in learning opportunities and experiences that will give them energy and enthusiasm while avoiding the dangers of overload. For example, I have recently joined a university faculty. The leadership and teaching opportunities there have ignited my enthusiasm for lifelong learning. They have put me in touch with my spark, which is teaching, and taken me back to my counselling roots.

2. Figure out the strengths (sparks) of the people around you and put those strengths to work. Our sparks bring purpose and meaning to our lives. They are our breath, our oxygen.  They are what we bring to the world to make the world a better place.

I recall a colleague who was struggling as a teacher to arrive on time, to manage her class and stay organized. Once the principal figured out the teacher’s spark (which was modifying and adapting curriculum), he thanked her for it, and complimented her in front of her colleagues. As a result, the teacher felt a sense of belonging and significance. She began to arrive to school 30 minutes early, engaged in conversation in the staffroom, and became more organized and in charge in her classroom.

3. Draw on the talent in your building/district to deliver professional development. Get people involved. They are waiting to be invited.

4. Delegate! Don’t try to do everything yourself. This is a recipe for burnout. It can grow a culture of arrogance rather than one of collaboration.

5. Finally, have lunch together at least once a month and ideally off site. Getting away from ‘the business of thing’s can be a real ‘perk-me-up’.

Bev Ogilvie

Bev is Associate Professor at City University and temporary instructor at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC. Bev has 30 years of professional teaching experience in public schools, colleges and universities. She is a Master Instructor with the Crisis Prevention Institute, a member of the BC School Counsellors Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the BC Association of School Centered Mental Health Coalition. She is co-founder of Project Hope and the Collaborative for the Study of Connectedness in School Communities. Bev was awarded the 2009-2010 British Columbia Registered Clinical Counsellor Professional Care Award for exhibiting special creativity and effectiveness in providing counselling and professional care.

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