A dear friend of mine, Kate Smith, who is an award-winning principal in Australia uses the expression "shoulder-to-shoulder teaching." (Before you continue reading, follow her on Twitter @edukate_S.) She describes going into teachers' classrooms and working with them, teaching alongside them, shoulder-to-shoulder.
Another friend of mine, 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year Kathy Nimmer, (again, follow her on Twitter @Kathy_Nimmer) once told me about monthly summits in her district in which she meets with central office leaders to share experiences and what she is learning as she travels our state. It is a time in which everyone benefits, and she is valued.
And then there was the experience I had recently with my post-evaluation conference. The person who evaluates me is my department chair, Traci Rodgers (again, you know the drill, follow her @tracirodgers). We quickly moved from talking about the evaluation to discussing the implications of some data I had requested about changes in the demographics of our school and school district. We talked about work our department had done a few years ago in this area, how our student profile has changed in the intervening years, and what some of the implications could be. And as we talked about numbers, we began to talk about people. We talked about actual students and families. We speculated. We mused. We pondered.
When she left, we acknowledged that we had come up with no solution to any problem, no means of handling any certain challenge. Yet we had done one of the most important things two human beings can do. We had thought together. No, you did misread that last sentence. I did write that we had taught together, although we are indeed colleagues in the best sense of that word. We had thought together, and that supreme and supremely human act can only take place when egos and agendas are set aside and two people walk shoulder-to-shoulder looking in the same direction toward what can be.