When we talk about the relationships between parents, educators and school trustees we often use and hear the phrase, Partners in Education. The word partnership implies a formal agreement between two or more parties that have agreed to work together in the pursuit of common goals with shared influence, risks and rewards. For the most part the individuals within a partnership expect to equally participate in making the decisions.
Teamwork is the process of working collaboratively with a group of people in order to achieve a goal. A team consists of more than one person, each of whom typically has different responsibilities, skills, knowledge and roles: each person brings something unique and of value to the team.
A partnership cannot work effectively when everyone involved expects to be part of the final decision making. When members of the partnership are left out of the decision making process or are not happy with the decisions made, conflict and animosity builds and resentment grows.
However, in team work, members understand that the responsibility of making decisions lies with some individuals of that team. The power of teams lies in having people work together, sharing their ideas and experiences to support a common goal. Healthy teams ensure that all members are part of the process but recognize that the responsibility for making a final decision might rest with someone else – in other words not the group as a whole.
Our education system is set up in such a way that specific people hold the responsibility of making final decisions after consulting with others who have a vested interest in education. When a decision is made and is contrary to the advice provided through consultation, tensions rise and discontent settles in, which challenges the relationships. However, if we change our mindset to one of teamwork rather than partnership, we are able to make better decisions about how to educate our youth. Being part of a team, where everyone has a role to fulfill, where everyone understands the roles and responsibilities of their fellow team members, and every member is valued, will ensure that the best decisions are being made. The added bonus is that it allows you to tap into an enormous reservoir of talent, knowledge and creativity that will assist you in your personal learning and growth as a team member.
The structure of the education system today in BC sets the stage time and time again for frustrations, distrust and even anger. As long as we continue to act and communicate as partners in education rather than team members in education, the climate will not change – be it as the school, district or provincial level. We need to change our mindset from a relationship based on partnerships to one based on team membership and we need to do it sooner rather than later.