Collaborative Learning Teams – A Place for Giving

The cold weather is setting in, students are antsy, and the season of giving is upon us. These busy winter months are a perfect time to practice generosity to our colleagues in our CLT meetings and beyond. Here are a few ways to practice giving that can make a lasting difference.

Give the gift of active listening. Active listening is a powerful way to express personal and professional generosity. Active listening isn’t flattery, giving advice, or making someone’s story about you. The gift of active listening includes limiting distractions, building rapport, pausing, paraphrasing, and asking thoughtful questions.

I’m the first to admit that I check my phone too much. It’s a terrible habit and one that I’m working to break. When someone is talking to me and my phone dings, it’s tempting to reach over and check it. However, giving someone the gift of focused attention, if even for a few moments, demonstrates to others that their presence and time has value. Other ways to limit distractions include maintaining eye contact, facing the person who’s speaking, and managing our own inner dialogue. Self-management of these behaviors takes awareness, time, and practice. Yet undistracted moments are rare these days. What a generous gift to offer someone!

Asking a few thoughtful questions can be a huge indicator of engagement in a conversation. Compare a thoughtful question like “What’s most important to you about that issue right now?” or “How will making that change impact students?” with a statement like, “You’re a smart person, you’ll figure it out.” Or the question, “What are you noticing about how your students are demonstrating independent reading?” with, “My students struggle with that too, which reminds me of a new thing I want to try.” I’m not suggesting we turn each conversation into a deep moment. However demonstrating deep listening skills and curiosity about someone else is a way to build and strengthen relationships, show our thoughtfulness, and express generosity with our time.

Give the gift of maintaining confidentiality. Few things undermine personal and professional relationships like broken trust. By this time of year, our CLT meeting habits are well underway, student data is explored regularly, and we get comfortable with each other. It can be tempting to get sloppy with our talk. Giving the gift of confidentiality can be a way to keep our professional relationships in-tact, ensure information is only shared on an as-needed basis and with permission, and protect us from revealing information that could cause embarrassment to ourselves or others. Recently, I was in a local restaurant and overheard a table of teachers talking loudly about their school and students. By name. By school. I cringed realizing that they probably had no idea who was in the room. Could that student’s parents be at the next table? Is that a school administrator walking by? Maintaining confidentiality is not only a way to be generous to colleagues and students, but it’s a professional expectation worth revisiting and practicing.

Give the gift of sharing resources. Let’s face it. We’ve all been tempted to hoard our favorite guided reading books from the book room or mentor texts from the library. We all have our success stories and things that work for us and our students. Maybe it’s our enviable classroom management skills, hands on techniques for building number sense, or demonstrating powerful writing focus lessons. Is it that article on Interactive Writing that changed your practice and made a difference in your students’ success with hearing and recording sounds in words? Or a mentor teacher who showed you how to revise your approach to organizing your classroom library? How about the book you read, Powerful Book Introductions, which helped you set up your students for independent reading from the start? Time to share the love! What’s working? Why is it working? Consider what you can share with your colleagues so that your team can celebrate even greater collective success. 

Giving of ourselves this time of year by actively listening, maintaining confidentiality, and sharing our time and resources can give our colleagues a gift worth keeping – our professional best practices on behalf of students. 

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