As he read the letter, Masekela recalled thinking, "Here is a man in jail, forever. And HE was writing to ME, encouraging me, comforting me. And a song had to come up - I did not write it - it just came out: 'Bring back Nelson Mandela. Bring him back home to Sowetho'."
That one moment, in a movie I saw for the first time in college, shaped the way I think about collaboration. I just didn't see it until I saw it.
Most of us view collaboration no differently than the group work we assign our students. We divide and conquer. We try to make sure everyone does what is fair so that the job gets done. Maybe we like each other. Maybe we're friends. Maybe we even enjoy our time together, or get a lot accomplished.
But that's as far as we're willing to go.
You can do that much without being vulnerable. Without risking anything. Without changing, or being willing to change.
At the PD we had today with Mike Mattos, he gave us a way of describing that: a 5 team. If all teams are ranked from 1-10, then a 5 team is the kind of team you settle for. The kind of team of which I've been a part for most of my career - group work, collegial, friendly.
There's also a 1 team - where every day is a soap opera. We argue for a while, then eventually agree to disagree because our meeting is over and we want to be out of that room as fast as possible. I've also been on those teams, although thankfully, not nearly as often as 5 teams.
Finally, there is a 10 team. The kind of team about which you can say, "I can't imagine doing my job without them. We achieve more together than we do alone. The collaboration we do has changed who I am and how I teach."
My team will support me, no matter what. When I'm struggling, they will pull me along. When I am excelling, I help those who are struggling. We are interdependent and recognise that if one of us has failed, we ALL have failed.
On a 10 team, you can't always point out which ideas are yours and which ideas came from another person - it's all as a result of the collaboration. What you can see is that you now can only envision your life with those people in it. If you take them out, your practice - and maybe even your life - just doesn't work. You need them, but there's more to it than that; you feel like half your brain is missing when you have to plan without them, or can't talk about your day with them, or can't get their help on a problem.
In that kind of team, it's not just that you need each other, and believe that you're better with them...it's that you fundamentally are different because of them.
Not only do I have the best collaborative partner in the world, but I also have a small community on twitter who help me, encourage me, support me, challenge me. They are part of my 10 team. Crazy things happen - like eight of us start working on an idea over Google+ Hangout and Google Drive, and it ends up being something amazing (more on that later). Or a bunch of English flipped learning teachers get together over G+ to talk about what it's like to do something none of us really knows how to do.
I have people who have changed me and my practice forever. I can't imagine what my life or teaching looks like without them. All of them - Karl, Carolyn, Lindsay, Audrey, Crystal, Kate, Delia - have changed me.
And none more than Andrew.
I've written a lot about how Andrew and I work together. You'll also notice that I generally use the pronoun "we" or "us" to talk about what's happening in "my" classroom. Here's the thing: I can't say that anything I do belongs to me. Everything has been shaped by Andrew and the work we do together. Remove him, and nothing works.
Now, as amazing as that is, it's also really scary. This kind of collaboration demands vulnerability, risk, reciprocity. It is the purest form of ubuntu: we are all made more human by each other's humanity.
We need each other.
What happens in our classroom is a song that has to come up. Neither of us writes it. It just emerges, and changes both of us in the process. It shows our students what it means to be collaborative, but that's not why we do it.
It keeps us sane through our own time spent in exile - in a classroom by ourselves, with too many students and too much to do.
We do it because we need each other. But more than that, because we get to.
That is why we're using the hashtag #coflip - there is no way to describe what it is that we're doing. Collaborative Flipped Learning is the best we can do.
And the best we can do is, as it turns out, pretty amazing.