There's a phrase that has been around since forever; one that comes up time and time again, but probably most recently in the popular media through the US version of the X factor. You may remember (if you watch it) the girl group - Fifth Harmony?
The phrase is :
We're better together
And it doesn't matter that it's so well known, so 'true' that we tend to ignore it. In fact, it is the most important concept out there & is, in fact, even more fundamental to the school's ethos than my usual mantra of 'Respect' & trust …
Because the fact is we are not alone, we do not work, we could not survive, if we were truly alone. No one person could live a modern life, with all its trimmings, on their own - no one person can know the sum totality of human knowledge, from medicine to engineering to agriculture.
We rely on others all the time. We are a social animal. We always have been and always will. From the first time we came down from the trees, our distant ancestors worked out that they could defend themselves against the wild animals by working together & they could feed themselves better by working as a team to hunt. Society is based on the principle of division of labour, where different people in the group take on different roles.
We are better together.
The very word, society, comes from a Latin word, socii, which directly translates to the English word - allies. People who co-operate to help a group achieve something they could not achieve alone. Like, for example, the collection of countries that grouped together in the first half of the 1940's to defeat Nazi Germany.
Our school community is a society; we work best when we work together. Like the wider society, there's not one person who can do everything to keep the school running smoothly & the staff all work closely together to help this. The result is that you all have the best possible opportunity to become the very best you can be.
And that's the point; there's so much more in the phrase 'Better Together' than just passively letting others get on with their lives. We have to actively work together, co-operate and collaborate to help others be the best they can be, so that we become the best we can be.
Collaboration is key.
It is also one of six identified social skills that are already crucial and will only become more important in the work place of the future. Your workplace.
For the record, the 6 social skills identified are:
- Knowledge Construction
- Real-world problem-solving & innovation
- The use of ICT
- Skilled communication
But collaboration is the really important one.In so many ways, we are programmed to compete, to try to outdo each other and overcome others to be 'the best'. And I'm not saying that competition is bad; quite the opposite - competition is a good, healthy thing and there are loads of situations where there can be only one winner, so to develop the skills of competition are also crucial, but we have those, almost built into our DNA, so don't need to spend too much time on these.
The problem is when we try to compete when there is no race, no competition to participate in. When there is no one winner, only losers. That's when collaboration is crucial.
In the classroom, for example. Here at Sandymoor, we have tables in clusters, where you work alongside and around colleagues. There is no competition there; or at least there shouldn't be… If someone on your table doesn't know something, there is nothing to be gained from gloating and letting them struggle, whereas if you help them, they can then carry on and learn and grow. And the flip side? Well, when you need help because you don't understand something, they will be more inclined to help you too. As a result, everyone gets better. Win-win, if you ask me.
There's another great phrase I use time and time again, which also emphasises the importance of collaboration;
Shoulders of giants
It dates back almost 900 years, where a French philosopher first wrote it down, but I heard it by reading about one of my heroes - the famous Physicist; Isaac Newton. Both used it in the same context, to say that we can only see further, understand more, than those before us because we are standing on their shoulders, using their knowledge and understanding to make sense of what we are seeing. We are like dwarves, seeing further only because we are standing on the shoulders of giants.
We become bigger, better, by working with others, working alongside them and helping them as they help us. Our ancient ancestors learnt that, when attacked in their caves by packs of wild animals, so why is it sometimes so hard to do it now?
Rather than fighting others, putting them down to make yourself look bigger, or refusing to help someone because you don't like them, try reaching out and helping them. At the very least, you never know when you might need them to repay the favour.