I think we all can agree that the primary ingredient for a high functioning early childhood centre is the team! Probably more important than its leadership, the team is the 'cogs and wheels' of a centre, the engine room. If a leader has a vision, the team is the ones who either drive the centre toward that vision, or work against it. Team culture is an overstated term and yet it would be a rare occasion you would come across a centre where EVERYONE is part of and contributes to a positive and constructive team culture.
Why is it then that teachers find it so hard to get along? Where we'd rather work against one another than with each other?
The answer is simple - We can at times be a little self-absorbed..
The centres where a collaborative, constructive team culture is evident is a centre where selflessness saturates the environment, and it is embedded in the practice of all teachers in the team.
I remember reading about servant leadership as a form of progressive leadership in a post-industrial work environment. Where leaders put others before themselves, and considered their role as leaders to be one where others came first, and their needs made way for the needs of others.
What if this kind of approach happened with everyone in a teaching team? Teachers putting their colleagues above themselves, sacrificing some of their time, effort, and aspirations so they can promote the aspirations of their fellow teacher. Service to others is something that as teachers we are well familiar with. Our main purpose is to make sure the service (care or education to some) we provide to the children in our centres and their families is as good as we can get it. But we seem to forget that in order to have a well-functioning team, we need to serve one another as much as we do our children and their families.
Our colleagues are part of the 'community' we like to preach so much about but when consideration needs to be given to their needs and aspirations; we tend to forget them altogether - consumed by our thirst for our own needs to be fulfilled.
Now in a complete profit making business this kind of a team culture can and does bring success, but it does not and will never work in an early childhood environment. Why? Because our very purpose is based on the notion of service to others, which should include the people we work with and alongside. Early Childhood isn't a 'me' business, it's a people business and our colleagues are people to.
So ask yourselves - When was the last time I put my colleagues above myself? If the answer is recently and regularly and every member of your team can agree, my bet is that you have a fairly strong team, where everyone works for each other, not against. If you are having a hard time answering that question and the rest of your team can't think of a time either, I'd bet things aren't going so well with your team culture.
So...what are my suggestions for transforming a dysfunctional team into a highly functioning one?
- Stop being a 'me' person and start being a 'them' person. As in, I will work FOR them, I will sacrifice FOR them.
- Communication isn't just a word; it's the essence of a highly functioning team. Communicate positively, constructively, and respectfully to one another and half your jobs already complete!
- Save the drama, be happy you have the best job in the world and are surrounded by other people who have chosen the best job in the world as THEIR best job in the world. Gossip, drama...don't let it become part of your repertoire and shut down anyone who tries to start it.
- It's hard to relinquish control and become selfless but giving, sharing, and sacrificing your time, effort, and 'needs' feels far better than taking everything for yourself.
- Stop waiting for the end of the day to come and enjoy the moment, have fun with your team members, laugh a lot, play a lot and be happy.
And if you feel you are unable to use any of the suggestions that I have mentioned above and are comfortable teaching as part of a dysfunctional team, I have only one suggestion left to offer you..................