I finally went to The Glacie Conference that happens annually in Toronto. The Glacie conference features Spence Kagan and is two days full of information and networking with teachers. The topic is cooperative learning, but I always think of it without the learning part. That would make it about cooperation. For me, the question becomes “How do we make cooperation more attainable in our world?” What skills are necessary to make sure that we all cooperate whether it is in the nursery school classroom, the sports fields, the university lecture halls or the corporate boardrooms?
For me, the educational environment is a perfect laboratory for how we want to be behaving in real life. If we practise enough in the comfort of the classroom, we’ll get good enough to be able to do it out in the real world. Wouldn’t it be great if we cooperated in the real world?
I read something lately that talked about the difference between group work and cooperative work. It referred to two sports figures to illustrate the concept. One was Tiger Woods. The other was Michael Jordan. The writer said that if your pursuit is to be the best individual, you can work in a group but you probably aren’t working cooperatively. Michael Jordan, as good as he is in basketball, is only as good as his team allows him to be. Tiger Woods, although he plays with many golfers, can shine. Tiger plays in an environment where there is no interdependence.
Interdependence is the key to a cooperative environment. Members of the team who feel respected and useful, contribute more. They are more enthusiastic and motivated to participate. The more active participation from members the more chance for success results.
Research (David and Roger Johnson) supports the idea that groups excel when there exists a sense of interdependence. That makes sense to me. If we are taking care of ourselves first and then taking care of our neighbours, chances are we all prosper.
In the winter months, I volunteer weekly at a church where I serve dinner to homeless and hungry people. I’ve been doing this for 12 years so I have become quite close with some of the people who are guests at the dinners. Recently one of my friends from the church was diagnosed with cancer. Last month he had serious surgery to remove a cluster of intestines and some of the malignancy. He’s been in the hospital since the surgery (June 8). He has no family and no friends that I know about. There are about 8 of us from the church who have been visiting Derek and advocating for him while he is recuperating and in convalescence.
It is inspiring to be part of a group that works so diligently to care for others. There are many of us so we don’t tire. Although I am away for the summer, I know the rest of the group picks up the slack that my absence leaves. There are times when I work more to pick up the slack of others. Imagine a world where everyone took care of themselves and even had enough energy left over to give to others.