One for the Team

The ability to engage with others is the building block of many things in life. Children need to be able to work with others. They also need to build relationships, whether with family members, friends, neighbours, colleagues, or customers. From a young age, children need to learn how to give and take, share, take turns, play to their strengths, and draw in other people to “fill the gaps”. It is a core social skill which, if developed well in early childhood, will pay dividends later in life.

Learning to work as part of a team helps children hone many social skills, such as patience, empathy, communication, respect for others, compromise, and tolerance. It also helps them develop confidence in themselves and trust in other people. Days at Yateley Manor are packed with opportunities for them to develop these skills, and children who get to grips with teamwork from a young age will act as positive role models for other children too.

The challenges of being a team member

Research suggests that children as young as three understand the value of teamwork, but that does not mean it always comes naturally.

Jean Piaget, a psychologist who developed the theory of cognitive development, suggested that between the ages of two and seven years, children are egocentric. Egocentrism refers to the child's inability to see a situation from another person's point of view. The egocentric child assumes that other people see, hear and feel exactly the same as the child does. In the developmental theory of Jean Piaget, this is a feature of the ‘preoperational child’. Children’s thoughts and communications are typically egocentric (about themselves) and they therefore present as innately selfish. They are born with the drive to have their basic needs for food and comfort met, and it is only through the lessons they learn in childhood that they begin to move away from that viewpoint.

This means it is quite normal for children to have difficulties with teamwork at first. To see this in action, watch how a toddler snatches a toy from their playmate or burst into tears if someone sits in their favourite chair. They are the centre of their own world, and their needs come first. It is very hard for them to put those aside to allow someone else’s needs to be met.

However, while teething problems such as pushing and shoving, tantrums and being a sore loser are to be expected, over time children will get used to being part of a team rather than being alone. The early childhood school years are an excellent time to cultivate the teamwork ethos in children. Many activities inside and outside the classroom are designed to help children get used to being team players. At Yateley Manor these include:

 

  • Problem-solving tasks, often in science or design technology, such as building the tallest possible structure.
  • Partner or group work, with children of differing abilities helping one another.
  • Group reading, where children take it in turns to read passages from a set book.
  • Music, playing simple instruments like ukuleles, keyboards and percussion to put together a piece of music.
  • Woodland Learning, taking part in outdoor activities such as building shelters and lighting fires.
  • Putting on a school production or a class assembly.
  • Circle time, where every child is given equal opportunity to speak.
  • Pupil voice forums, such as our School Council and Eco Committee, where elected child representatives meet with members from FYMS to discuss issues that are affecting their class.
  • Debates, working as a team to argue for or against a particular issue.
  • Team sports such as football, hockey, cricket, netball and cross-country.

It was a privilege to accompany our Debating Team to Reading earlier this week for the next round of the Youth Speaks competition. Teamwork was abundantly obvious from their performance and I was exceptionally proud of them.

Teamwork was again on show on Friday afternoon with our Annual Cross Country inter-house competition. The message that we try to convey to all of the children is that every one of them can play their part for the team by participating. However once again I was taken aback by the wonderful sense of teamwork and community. The team spirit shone through and the support for one another was incredible. I am so proud of the children when they take it upon themselves to run alongside the last few runners on the course. It demonstrates maturity, respect and empathy. It also encapsulates a number of our core school values: community, happiness and teamwork.

Teamwork: “The combined action of a group, especially when effective and efficient.” (Oxford Languages)

As Charles Darwin once said, "It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed."