“Alone, we can do little, together we can do so much.” Helen Keller – Cooperation
How do we know if working with others will make us better off?
Cooperation is not a foreign concept for students. They are told at all stages of life that it is important to cooperate with others. It is also the case that they are expected to be self-reliant and not afraid to accept the hard work that comes with doing things alone.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts for an unforgettable conversation about cooperation using the Teach Different 3-Step Method.
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Steve Fouts: 0:04
Hey everybody, Steve and Dan Fouts here. We’re teaching different with Helen Keller today with the theme of cooperation. Here’s her quote. “Alone, we can do little, together we can do so much.” Cooperation isn’t something that students have heard for the first time. We expect them to learn how to cooperate with others. When kids are younger, and in school, we provide all kinds of skill based lessons and practice to get them to see what it’s like to work with other people and to be in a situation where they’re responsible for a final product. The final product is associated with multiple people, and if you don’t work with people, you’re not going to get anything accomplished. Cooperation is definitely something that students are used to as far as a theme.
Dan Fouts: 1:04
I was just going to say cooperative learning is a type of instruction and professional development that teachers give. It’s very well established.
Steve Fouts: 1:16
Exactly. What claim is she making with this quote?
Dan Fouts: 1:25 – Claim
She’s saying that it’s all about cooperation, if you want to be successful. If you want to accomplish things we can do so much together. She’s definitely falling on the side of…
Steve Fouts: 1:37
One plus one equals three.
Dan Fouts: 1:39
Right, is the cliché. Thinking about this conversation in class and examples that students might bring up with group projects, which was already alluded to, is definitely something you want to put into the conversation. You have to rely on other people to produce a product. You’ll want to ask the kids in the conversation, what is an example when you’ve worked with people in a team or in a group, where you were able to accomplish something great? There are different teams in school, not just athletic teams, but debate teams, clubs, Key Club, and National Honor Society, where you’re doing things as a group, and you’re accomplishing great things.
Steve Fouts: 2:41
You’re also with your friends. Sometimes when you’re with your friends, either inside or outside of school, you’re doing things as a group. It might be interesting to fish out experiences when they worked with their friends towards something, where everyone had a role to play.
Dan Fouts: 3:00
I was also just thinking about community service work, through students, churches, or some other mechanism, where they’re doing work outside in the community with other people. They’re going to come up with a lot of different life experiences supporting this claim.
Steve Fouts: 3:24 – Counterclaim
You’re also going to get some pushback by some students. They are going to point out that cooperation sounds good, but it also makes it harder to accomplish things sometimes. What’s introduced when you get people working together, social dynamics. Disliking someone in your group can ruin a productive environment in class. A lot of students are more self-reliant and independent. They get tired of having other students not pull their weight in these situations. Some students watch others do all the work, and then they take credit for it. Students who are hard workers and dutiful are going to resent that and they’re going to argue that independent work is more productive than having to bring people into it.
Dan Fouts: 4:33
Especially for introverted students who get their energy from working alone, not working in groups. Groups are emotionally exhausting, having to accommodate so many different personalities and styles of learning. Give me an hour alone and I’ll come up with a great idea all by myself. That has a lot of legitimacy. I was also thinking about teachers, and how we can connect with this quote too. We’ve all been in faculty meetings where we’re expected to work together to plan lessons or to come up with some sort of idea. We look around wondering if this is the best use of our time. I just want thirty minutes by myself.
Steve Fouts: 5:19
I know what I’m doing. Not that you don’t value your colleagues’ opinions and feedback, but it’s a practical issue. Sometimes it’s just more efficient to get things done on your own.
Dan Fouts: 5:32
That is a great example of a conversation where I think it’s really important for the teacher to share her opinions and perspectives, so that the kids see her as a collaborative partner in the conversation. I think the students would really appreciate that, especially with this quote.
Steve Fouts: 5:55 – Essential Question
When you’re ready to wrap up the conversation, use this essential question to get the students reflecting. How do we know if working with others will make us better off? I think that question can help students think about the times when working alone is better, and when working with others is necessary and better.
Dan Fouts: 6:25
That’s an important question to ask yourself before you decide. This essential question is going to be important to close down the conversation, as Steve alluded to, but also be thinking about how you can use this in your regular curriculum. My mind immediately gravitates towards a social studies context where you’re studying social movements, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the women’s movement. You could tell your students that we’re going to study Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and you’re going to devise an answer to this essential question based on their perspective, and what you learn about them. This will bring the historical figures alive a little bit.
Steve Fouts: 7:33
The other obvious example would be the civil rights movement, and how when people mobilize together they can accomplish things in government and change laws. It might also be interesting to come up with some historical figures who did things unilaterally, without others, and went against the advice of a group, or when the President takes actions that go against Congress.
Dan Fouts: 8:13
Yeah. This question, when presented at different times in your course, could encourage the kids to see that people in history come to different answers to this essential question, just as they, they students, might come to different answers to it. The essential question can bring your curriculum alive and internalize the learning.
Steve Fouts: 8:39
That’s teaching different with Helen Keller this week with the theme of cooperation. We’ll have another good one for you next week. Take care, everybody.