Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much. Helen Keller
“Work together. Your project will be better,” said Mrs. Campbell, my Kindergarten teacher. My classmates and I were working on a painting project where each of us were given a small pot with different colors of paint. We were doing a landscape (well, if you can call grass, trees, a hill and the sun a landscape). We started working but soon found out that we had to actually talk about who was doing what before producing this masterpiece. And, the birds had to be blue or red or black, the sun yellow, the trees brown. All of these elements had to be set in the right place. The sun couldn’t be below the trees. The hill couldn’t be on top of the birds. We had a plan and we worked together to make it happen.
Watching the news, one wonders whether some of our world leaders would have benefitted from Mrs. Campbell’s class.
Many children coming into Kindergarten are still under the impression that the world orbits around their (totally) awesome personalities. This is normal for most four- and five- year-old children, especially at our school, where so many of our students are first born or “onlies.” Of course, these youngsters quickly learn that they are really just planets revolving around the new center of their solar system – their Kindergarten teacher.
The Kindergarten teacher’s responsibility really is “awesome”… as in “overwhelming,” not as in “amazing.” Fulfilling this responsibility isn’t easy. It requires both sophisticated classroom management skills and a firm grasp of technique. However, by the end of their first year in formal schooling, most children understand that there is more to gain by getting along and cooperating with their peers and adults than working against them.
All formal learning is enhanced by cooperation. The more voices heard on a subject, the more the individual has to justify, and then fine-tune, their views. There are more ways to add numbers than just one way. You can look at history from the vantage point of the victors…or that of the vanquished. Kids can understand that science is a combination of proven facts and more fluid theories, which sometimes blow the “facts” out of the water.
Winning at sports is augmented by cooperation. While there will always be those genetically superior individuals powering any team, they can’t succeed without teammates. The left and right wingers in soccer aren’t usually the stars but the centers can’t score without their help. The pitcher in baseball gets a lot of attention but the catcher calls the throws (Yadi, Yadi, Yadi!!). Even in long distance running, a sport that you might think would be all about the individual, teammates are needed to both act as “rabbits” setting the pace and “pushers” who impel the leaders forward.
Getting ahead in the work world, especially in today’s globalized corporate environment, requires teamwork. There is a reason Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Elon Musk of Tesla fame, all have their desks out in the middle of their enterprises, in plain sight of their employees. They’re part of the team. Work is becoming less and less vertical and more and more horizontal in nature.
Nobel prizes in the sciences are being awarded to teams in contemporary times, as opposed to the Jonas Salks and Albert Einsteins of the past. And these teams quite often come from around the world. Thanks to digital networks, scientists now share and “cooperate” to understand and master the material world.
It’s true. All you really needed to know in the world, you learned in Kindergarten. What would Mrs. Campbell say about some of our politicians today?