For a majority of my career so far I have worked in departments with teachers who were quietly competitive with each other. It was quiet, but it produced a fierce and unwelcoming environment within the department. When I was a new teacher it was very intimidating and creatively limiting for me personally. Over the years, with my experience and age, I have (thankfully) come into my own in terms of not allowing the competitive spirit of others limit me as I try new things and work with students. It has lead me to ponder why people become competitive in the workplace, and the only answer I can come up with is: FEAR. People are afraid that they won't get the credit for the great idea, or that someone else will use that idea and then THEY will be doing something wonderful! When I identified that, it made sense to me, and I can remember times when I, too, had that competitive/protective tendency. Working within a department that hasn't created a cooperative environment just breeds more and more competition. As a newer teacher, when I finally had a great idea I wanted to protect it long enough to actually put that idea into action, so people could catch me doing something great, before I felt willing to share the idea. I guess it's a natural response to the conditions, but it isn't helpful by any means.
I am fortunate enough to have had the experience of being a member of the founding faculty at my current school, Vista Visions Academy, and the experience of working closely together with other teachers to create and establish the initial culture and vision of an organization requires much collaboration. It isn't always easy, as sometimes the perspective and opinions of people can be so far away from one's own. But if we keep the end in mind, we will always see that our goal is to create and establish what is good for students, so cooperation is a must. I have slowly been de-conditioned- meaning that when I feel the need to protect an idea, I notice that, examine it, and have come to trust that sharing the idea will usually lead to an even better idea when it circulates through the minds of the various talented people I work with. And I am certainly finding that to be true. I have had some planning sessions with some of the people I work with, where the energy and creativity in the room is palpable as the ideas flow. We spark off of each other and really take it to a level we couldn't even imagine on our own. That's an incredible feeling.
As a leader with a strong vision, it will most likely take a lot of self-control and mindfulness to enter into conversations with an open mind- to be able to step back and allow other people to offer great ideas and allow them to meld with my ideas to transform them. It will also be challenging, I imagine, to listen to ideas that don't meld well with my own, and try to find some common ground and solutions that work well for all stakeholders. But to do so will create strong relationships and a collaborative environment that will be wonderful for a school. This is such an important philosophy and habit to embrace.
My boys have really enjoyed my teaching them the first three habits, and they have put them into play nicely. We are still having great conversations about them. I imagine, though, that this habit will be a bit more challenging to sell. They are athletic boys who play on sports teams, and there is always a natural competitive spirit within them. I won't use sports as examples with them, that is for sure. I will think of some other areas of their lives, especially with family, friends, and classmates. I will let them help me brainstorm some situations that can yield a win-win situation for them. It should be interesting, to say the least, but I am looking forward to the challenge.