On kingdoms, classrooms, and collaboration (Part 1)

On Kingdoms and Classrooms

In my time in education, I’ve come to have a lot of respect for educators who can build successful programs (henceforth called kingdoms so I can work my gratuitous Game of Thrones metaphor like Littlefinger works politics). My own school is absolutely full of exceptional kingdoms with dedicated rulers (teachers) and committed citizens (students). Film, Agri, Drama, Art, Debate; the list could go on and on. These kingdoms impact students positively daily; motivating them and providing formative life experiences that will shape them into the adults they will become. Such articulated programs are extremely valuable for our students and provide a place of belonging, a sense of purpose, and feelings of accomplishment. Today’s Drama I student may go on to become tomorrow’s TED talker. The kid who didn’t care much for regular classes but found her place in the school’s television studio may produce the world changing documentary of tomorrow. Such programs not only teach life and career skills, but they give students a sense of place in providing positive social cliques in which they can interact. Hang out with our literary magazine staff, and you’ll see a tight-knit group of students who speak their own language and observe their own social customs. Finally, all of these programs produce a product, providing intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for participation.

I don’t wish to take away from what these individual rulers, citizens, and kingdoms have been able to accomplish. But what happens when someone comes along and asks them to work together toward something bigger? Well, as anyone who has sat upon the Iron Throne can attest, the results may get ugly.

(Part 2 tomorrow).

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3 thoughts on “On kingdoms, classrooms, and collaboration (Part 1)

  1. I’m curious to hear part two of your post, because in my school–um, I mean kingdom (I’ll stick with your GoT analogy despite having yet to see an episode) the culture is borderline obsessed with “breaking down the silos,” whether it’s through team-teaching, or learning communities, or Common Intellectual Experiences. All well-intentioned stuff, except that in the application it’s an endless series of false starts. Or it’s the same 5% of faculty who are always early adopters. Not sure if that’s exactly what’s on your mind here, but your initial thoughts seem to relate to my corner of the kingdom.

    1. Firstly: I can’t believe you haven’t watched GoT. Sopranos in medieval times!

      Secondly, it’s nice to see that our pedagogical trends are filtering up into higher education. The problem, which I think you point to and which I’ll try to touch on more in my other posts on the subject, is that there’s often no real purpose for this collaboration. We often break down borders just for the sake of breaking down borders, without a real, meaningful objective in mind. It’s collaboration just for the sake of collaboration. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a collaborator. I thrive in getting people together and drawing connections between disciplines and feeding off of communal energy, so this stuff is exciting for me. So much so, that I often need to remind myself that collaboration is not an ends in itself, but needs to have some genuinely worthy objective that is greater than what would occur in its absence.

  2. Oh, they’re absolutely filtering up. For instance, we have regular meetings with local high school leaders regarding Common Core. It’s K-12 that’s the real laboratory for high impact teaching.

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