Thursday, August 28, 2014

Embracing New Partnerships: Communication, Collaboration, and Mindset

I am so honoured to welcome Cheryl as a co-blogger! She has always been the inspiration and partner behind the blogs by guiding me with her wise words and passion, but I am proud to say that she has taken a risk in sharing her writing and thinking through the blog as well. Cheryl and I will sign off on our writing when we blog - but I like to believe that we are 1 mind in 2 bodies!

One of the most common questions that my partner Tracy and I hear when speaking to other educators is…“Do you two have any tips for how to work as a team?” This concern has grown increasingly as we enter into the final phase of FDK with more and more educators coming together as teams.

Many educators feel intimidated when facing the unknown. Although it is natural feeling, the way that you deal with the vulnerability will determine whether or not it will increase your anxiety. 

If I were to structure my advice to those entering a partnership, I would say that communication, collaboration, and a positive growth mindset are the foundation to developing a strong partnership.

The anxiety of what the other educator will be like is a question that lingers in our mind day in and day out. Will our classroom philosophies be similar or completely different? How will they react when we don't agree on things? These same questions went through my head when I walked into a new team a few years ago.

We always think about the other person and rarely think about how we would act when faced with those same scenarios. Challenge yourself to think about how you will handle those situations so that your mind is conscious of your own personal approach. Control the controllable, you are the only person that gets to choose the approach you will take much like they will be the one to choose what their approach will be like. 

When feeling vulnerable we sometimes seek control to protect ourselves and to feel value in our own selves.  Sometimes I think we are continuously searching for a formula of how to speak with others so that confrontation never comes into place rather then sharing our feelings, thoughts and convictions. Reality is, in times of confrontation it will always continue to show up if it never gets resolved because you haven't slowed down to think about what it's trying to teach you. 

Listen to understand not to react. You can only grow if YOU are willing to do the work.
What does this look like in the classroom?

Building a relationship professional, before personally: 
Make it a priority to build a professional relationship before a friendship! When feeling vulnerable we often look for emotional reassurance which leads to wanting to be “liked”. It strays us from being objective in the classroom because we think that in order for others to listen you have to be “friends". This then leads us to jeopardize our values and convictions when they arise because the relationship is new and we are trying to avoid confrontation.

Enjoy each other's company, of course, but when speaking about what's happening in the classroom stay objective. Think carefully about the language you use when communicating. Use connective wording such as "we", "as a team", "together" to set the tone and match it with your actions to gain trust and respect. Be conscious of separating your personal life and work life. Once your professional life feels strong and past the “honeymoon phase” you might begin to connect more personally in conversations, but friendship does not lead to a strong partnership it is the respect and communication that builds the foundation. Be organized and effective with your time as we know everyone is able to give in different ways due to life outside of work. Honour what your partner can give and be prepared for when you meet keeping in mind maximum message with minimum time.

Do your work - use research to support hard conversations:
Bring in reflective researched texts that align with or challenge your beliefs. When a disagreement in practice arises, using research will support both educators in staying objective because you can refer to the text in discussions. It takes away the emotional feeling of your beliefs being targeted by providing a piece of research to discuss and focus on. 

Be sure to use it as a tool in being reflective together and discussing what is best practice for the children and NOT yourself. Let go of your ego and your stance in the room and be proactive. You cannot be a strong educator if you are never able to admit being wrong and changing your practice. “When you know better you do better”, as Maya Angelou always said. Those are the moments that will strengthen you as a team.

Collaboration as a Team:
Spiritual teacher Gary Zukav often relates how Newton's Third Law of Motion applies to our lives and emotions. It is defined as "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". If you want to move forward in life, you have to make it happen for yourself. Be responsible for the energy that you bring. Think about how your partnership is being seen. Children and others around you can pick up on this energy between you and your partner. They see if there's communication, notice the type of body language towards each other and how situations are followed through with. Keep your communication open and check in with each other. It's just like at home if a child wants ice cream they may strategize which parent to go to because they are anticipating an answer in their favour. Having consistency with messaging will strengthen the amount of respect with each other as well as continuous practice of having open communication.

Awareness of Mindset:

Keep conversations positive and proactive. There will always be moments of vulnerability especially when days don't go as planned or you may have made a mistake…that’s just life! Embrace those moments, although it will feel like an overwhelming flood… know that those moments never last forever. Again, when you know better you do better! Reflect on those moments and figure out what it's trying to teach you. When you embrace the mindset of “what is this trying to teach us?” in challenging moments you will be stronger and more confident together when approaching similar situations. Be conscious of your thoughts and shift your mindset to how powerful a team can be, like they always say two is better than one!


  1. Hi, I'm an ECE that just entered the school board and the school I am at, it is their first year doing FDK. My belief with children is that they are competent and I feel my team teacher does not feel the same because whenever I suggest an activity, she tells that the children would not know how to do it. How do I approach her and talk to her about it?

  2. I would suggest asking if you could try it. Sometimes until others see the power and value of what is happening, they will not believe it. Try to introduce new ideas and provocations slowly to show how capable and competent the young learners are!