Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the east coast as I write this. Like many of you, I made my preparations this weekend, and am glued to the Weather Channel with flashlights, batteries, water and non perishables nearby. I went to visit my parents this weekend in central Virginia, and as I was driving back to DC Saturday evening there was a steady stream of convoys of utility trucks headed north on the interstate. They were coming from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas to help the mid-Atlantic states with what could very well be an unprecedented weather event. As I drove, I kept thinking of the amazing teamwork that utility companies must operate under. When others are in need, the calls are made and help is on the way. These men and women left their families back home to come and help millions of people who will be in need of their services. It brought tears to my eyes. While we may suffer through days of being inconvenienced with no power, the utility workers are risking their lives, far from home, to help restore power. I am very grateful for the brave men and women who do that job.
So what does this have to do with teaching? In education, I believe that teamwork, cooperation and community is at the heart of what we do. It’s what makes our classroom communities work and our professional learning communities successful. I worry about performance based pay situations or evaluation systems that are setting up teachers to compete against each other. How can that possibly be what’s best for kids or for teachers? Don’t we want schools and educational systems that are designed to help and support one another? I know that’s how I want my classroom to work. We recently took a field trip to a farm where they had a hay maze set up. The kids were running around and helping each other find their way through the maze. I didn’t think anything of it until the owner of the farm came up to me and said she had never seen another group of students help each through the maze. She was amazed at how well they worked together as a team. This was the best compliment we could have received as a class. Our community of learners focuses a lot on cooperation and teamwork. We have a class cheer with hand motions – “kindergarten teamwork: together we can do ANYTHING!”- and I am constantly asking kids how they can help each other and how we can work together to achieve a goal or complete a task. I don’t want to set my kids up to compete against each other. I want them to support each other, encourage each other and work together. Teamwork and cooperation are life skills that these 5 year olds will use for the rest of their lives. And it’s what will help them be kind to others as well as become confident readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists, artists, and more. For me, it’s a key part of our curriculum.
As my kindergarteners say, “together, we can do anything!” Teamwork and cooperation can help us in so many ways, whether it’s a new teacher evaluation system, a challenging situation in our classroom or school, a new set of standards – or a hurricane. Stay safe and take care of each other.