Say Yes!

Sep 10, 2020


I love collaboration! My first teaching assignment was a Montessori class where there were two Kindergarten lead teachers for 30 children. It was remarkable! We each had sections of the day that we lead, sometimes switching up roles as needed. It was a divine situation for a new teacher. I learned so much from my co-teacher, Kristen who was somewhat of a genius in the classroom. She taught me how to open the day with circle, singing, connecting, and language development. She taught me how to step back and observe a child and then step in and offer a new tool or introduce a new concept. I only left because I’m a Black educator and Black educators only last so long in predominantly white demographics.

My second collaboration was with Kass. She was new to teaching like me. We shared a building that had a glass partition between our classrooms making it easy to assess each others needs. We’d swap students who needed a little break, share snacks, supplies, and trade books. And every Saturday we prepped all day long for the week ahead. We designed lessons together, created songs together, cut paper, the works. So yeah, I worked a 6 day week with 5 day pay, at new teacher salary. But I’m talking about collaboration not politics of teaching…for the moment.

My third teacher collaboration was with Lily. When I moved towns, she was the first person to take me out to lunch in my new city. The first year, we relied heavily on each other both being new to the arts school we were at. By this time I was in my 30’s and had ditched the 6 day a week work load but we’d spend our prep time during the day (woot!) in creative collaboration, designing units, art projects, and devising authentic assessments. Lily was fabulous because I would tend to explode with big ideas and she’d say “Okay, so let’s start with a portion of that.. maybe this part.” It became a notorious pattern. Lily and I had each others back in ways that you do when no one understands the life you’re living as a Kindergarten and First grade teacher. We’d make weekly runs to Peets enjoying the task of getting tea and coffee for each other during lunch breaks.

All of these collaborations had similarities.

Say yes! Positivity was the forecast for all of these beautiful collaborations. We said yes to each other more often than we’d hear a no. Even if the idea or need was not understood, the inclination was curiosity behind that yes, followed by trust that there would be a great outcome.

Reciprocity. These collaborations had the right amount of reciprocity. Kindness was exchanged. Generosity was positioned as a value. I’m not talking about monetary reciprocity (but yes, Lily and I traded off who paid for those coffees), but the reciprocity of trusting, believing, valuing, and nurturing each others needs.

Amazement. Center to these profound collaborations was the gift of seeing each other as amazing. I would watch Kristen, Kass and Lily and be profoundly amazed at their skill and methodology. And equally, I felt there gaze of amazement towards me. This feeling meant that love was present and love maintains feel good endorphins in the blood. I still have little bits of their mannerisms that come out to this day because I spent so much time emulating them and witnessing their gifts.

Today my most profound collaboration is with my co-founder Jessa. Jessa and I say yes to each others ideas. We trust that the idea is there for a reason and must be examined and understood even if we can’t quite pinpoint why. We midwife the ideas out of each other and bring them to life. We have deep reciprocity that shows in how we show up for each other in daily life. We believe, value, and nurture the strengths of each other. And everyday, I am amazed by Jessa’s skill and wisdom and I know she is amazed by mine.

Collaboration rooted in levels of connectedness and values leads the way for creating beautiful and loved centered learning spaces for students. I hope that you find yourself in a beautiful collaboration with others and if you don’t that you can take steps to create the collaborations you’re seeking.

“When you put love in the world it travels, and it can touch people and reach people in ways that we never even expected.” Laverne Cox