Serving Preschool Through 8th Grade in the San Francisco East Bay Since 1962

A Culture of Collaboration

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Aristotle
Seven Hills values collaboration. A component of our Portrait of a Graduate, our faculty recognizes the importance of cultivating this skill through interactions with one another and modeling it for our students. In the ever-evolving world of education, the role of successful faculty collaboration has risen as a key element in enhancing the student learning journey. Synergy among educators has the power to cultivate a nurturing atmosphere, foster student development, encourage inventive approaches, and address the diverse needs of learners. Building on our ongoing commitment to collaboration, Seven Hills faculty and staff delved further into this theme throughout the 2022-23 school year.

In his role as Assistant Head of School for Teaching and Learning last year, Dr. Victor Llanque led a number of professional development days focused on promoting collaboration within our teaching community. On one professional development day in March, Dr. Llanque invited the faculty to consider the following questions: What is collaboration? Why do we collaborate? What does it feel like? What are the necessary skills to collaborate? Can they be taught? If so, how do we do that? How can we be better collaborators?

Together, employees completed two collaborative challenges— the “Helium Ring” challenge and the creation of a comprehensive school map. Despite its simple premise—for the group to lower a hula hoop down to the ground using only their index fingers—the Helium Ring exercise proved surprisingly difficult, affirming the importance of clear communication in responding to a challenge. Creating a school map also presented a unique challenge to faculty; given the expansiveness of the Seven Hills campus, what aspects should the group choose to highlight or leave out? How would the group delegate the designing, drawing, and decorating of the map? Later that same day, teachers met with their division groups to complete collaborative exercises relevant to their own teams, such as:

• ECE and Lower School faculty assessing student work and writing samples based on specific rubric criteria
• The K-8 arts department analyzing student work to inform instruction
• Middle School advisors using student presentations and portfolios to prepare for student-led conferences

Finally, each team member took a moment to reflect upon a collaborative experience—either a success or a lesson from a setback. These reflections served as a springboard for insightful discussions about the elements that contribute to successful collaborations and those that are better left behind. Takeaways from the workshop included the importance of risk-taking, respecting areas of expertise, balancing planning and execution, and showing up with your unique strengths and perspectives, all while working towards a shared purpose in service to the Seven Hills mission. Professional development opportunities promote an environment where synergy, trust, communication, and cooperation thrive. Cultivating a culture of collaboration among the adults on campus empowers our students to be strong collaborators in the classroom, too. Seven Hills educators model the spirit of shared goal-setting, idea-sharing, and teamwork that shapes our students into “collaborative leaders and followers” by the time they walk across the graduation stage.