- Nancy Ruther, EdD
Making the Match: People First
by Grace East
At its heart, our CLICK system’s success relies on the relationships formed between teaching partners. What sets Gazelle International apart is our focus on people before field. Don’t share the same discipline? No problem (see our previous blog post entitled Field Schmield!) Don’t live in the same time zone? We’ll make it work. Not sure where to begin? That’s where we come in.
Making the professional connection starts with the personal. Our founder Nancy Ruther leads prospective CLICK instructors through a series of workshops that help teachers consider not only what they want in a partner, but also what they themselves offer in a collaborative partnership. First, we introduce teachers to the concept of virtual exchange, exposing them to the exciting ways that they can internationalize their classroom and expose themselves and their students to a world outside their own.
To do this, we’ve partnered with institutions across the US as well as those in France, Mexico, and the Netherlands. To help faculty start thinking about collaboration, we do a series of icebreakers and activities that lend themselves to collective discussion around teaching values and practices. We begin by asking simply: What makes a good teacher? What makes a bad teacher? Our teachers from Université Paris-Saclay and Northern Essex Community College created this list using Zoom’s whiteboard during our first Explore Workshop together.
After Explore, we move on to Connect where teachers really get a chance to know each other and consider potential teaching partners. One exercise asks the participants what they value in collaborative teaching, e.g. a recent Padlet example from Université de Lorraine and several US partners. Here, teachers begin to explore what they’re looking for and share expectations, hopes, and ideas for a possible collaboration. Notice how we haven’t even touched on course content yet, but rather the unique skills and attributes an instructor brings to the table as well as must-have qualities and deal breakers in a potential partner.
In Connect, we provide ample time for discussion between instructors in what we like to call “speed dating” in Zoom breakout rooms. We especially enjoy watching teachers connect over similarities outside of teaching, like a love for dogs, a musical hobby, or a favorite place to travel. Seemingly challenging differences such as different disciplines, time zones, and cultures can be creatively solved when two teachers connect as people first. At the end of our second Connect Workshop, teachers rank their top three choices for a CLICK project teaching partner with a confidential poll. Reviewing the preferences with us, campus liaisons are often pleasantly surprised at the reciprocal compatibility that emerges in such a short amount of time.
After Connect, the collaborative magic begins and teaching pairs embark on CLICK project planning with our Design Workshops. Once you and your partner have your full shared syllabus ready to run, we stay with your teaching team through implementation to meet the challenges that always arise and ensure that you and your students succeed. While we wish there were a secret sauce to dramatically reveal, the real key to successful virtual exchange is teachers’ enthusiasm for the project and investment in student outcomes. When these qualities coincide with our careful pairing process, the elements are in place for great collaboration.
2 November 2021