As a young teacher and tutor working in and around elementary schools, the teaching that really fascinated me was the work that got everybody engaged.
You could tell when it was happening because there was a busy sort of hum in the room and the teacher could kind of disappear inside of that quiet buzz. (Later, I found out that those were great times to step out and run to the restroom!)
I watched a lot of master teachers in my early years, and the techniques I picked up from them: the ones that really stuck and that I loved? They were, almost to a T, cooperative learning techniques and structures.
My first step towards really coming to understand cooperative learning was when I checked out Cooperative Learning in the Classroom from the University of Portland Library. This Johnson and Johnson text was a little unwieldy and low on the practical activities, but it was short! And it talked about a different kind of teaching and learning that I was used to, a lot of which sounded like the kind of meaningful instruction I had been admiring as a young teacher.
I read this book twice, and even though I was still a long way from effectively using cooperative learning in my class, I started to take it as a core tenet of my teaching philosophy. It's not hard to understand. Kids learn best when they learn from and rely on each other. It's elementary! But how do I take it to the next level? How do I make it a piece of my day-to-day planning and instruction? That questions was still elusive, but the seeds had been planted that brought me all the way to the creation of the TCL website and store.
My cooperative roots run deep. I've worked with kids for 10 years, and I've seen and heard cooperative learning happening in every year of my interaction with students. Johnson and Johnson were the first sages that introduced me to the power and efficacy of cooperative learning theory. There can be no growth without strong roots, and this book and my experiences have meant a lot to me. I look forward to continuing my growth as the curator of the Cooperative Learner.