True collaboration is not like the group projects you remember from your own high school days. You know, the one where you did all the work and the other kids cashed in on a grade with little effort? Collaboration is not working FOR someone, it's working WITH someone and it is up to you to make sure that it goes that way. Here a few tips to start out on the right foot.
1. Find a SMALL group of people to work WITH - many people automatically think of needing to collaborate with their whole department, but especially if you are just starting this process, it pays to think small. Perhaps work just with the teachers that teach the same course you do. If you are the only teacher, work with one from another local school or collaborate with someone on the Internet. There is a great Facebook group just for Spanish teachers in the U.S. and undoubtedly similar groups exist for other subject areas. Don't forget to think outside the box. Can you collaborate with a Social Studies teacher who can address the topic from a historical perspective while you address it from a cultural perspective? Is there an English language teacher that you can work with to work on the same grammar or reading strategy? Is there a science teacher that you could work with to present a bilingual lesson?
2. Face-to-Face meetings should be short - many people are turned off from collaboration because we just don't have a lot of time as teachers. Make face-to-face meetings as short as possible with the goal being to do only the things you need to have conversation or discussion about. Communicate via e-mail for everything else. Not only will you have something to go back and read when you wake up bleary-eyed at 4:30 am wondering what the heck you have to do that day, but you will be able to work towards your goals at your convenience. Meeting day after day after full days of teaching is not likely to produce great results. Take advantage of the chance to collaborate electronically when you are motivated and relaxed...in your bed, with a cup of tea. Sounds much better than being crammed into a student desk after 8 hours on your feet.
3. Agree on a way to share - in the electronic world, there are a lot of ways to collaborate in a common online space. Try creating a shared folder on Google Drive for things you want to share with one another. Start a group board on Pinterest where you can collect ideas along with your colleagues. If you are not as tech saavy, keep a folder where you throw together materials you would both like the other to see.
4. Delegate according to strengths - once you know what you are going to create, be it an assessment, a unit, a project, or somethings else, delegating responsibility is one of the best parts. Not only does it mean you don't have to do ALL the work, but it means hopefully that you will be able to focus on the things that you are best with and enjoy the most. For example, we have three Spanish 2 teachers (including myself). When we work on a unit, I tend to be responsible for the technology aspect as well as the formatting of materials so that they look nice. I am also the "creative" one (though some days I feel this arguable) so when we need an activity that will spice things up it usually falls on me. My colleague from Argentina is our culture guru and our proofreader. Our third colleague is our organizer who puts together nice day by day agendas and creates folders with the materials we will need each day.
5. Take some time off sometimes - Don't feel like you constantly need to be working on a project with other teachers. It is not going to kill you to focus on something just for you sometimes. Being able to do your own thing is especially important in these times where it can feel like we are all expected to be automatons. You do you, teach something you love, preferably something that isn't in "the book". This is what got you into teaching and this is one of the only things that will keep you there. If you are feeling burnt out or exhausted by meeting after meeting, take a break and don't you DARE feel guilty about it.