By Christy | The Practicing Pro
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Let me tell you a story when my daughter was in the musical theatre stage of her life, she played a fun game with herself in each production. She would find special things throughout rehearsals and during the run of the shows that the backstage helpers, costume designers and every part of the team did. She put a lot of effort into recognizing these small things they did to contribute to making the production successful. She wrote special handmade cards for each of them detailing what specific special things they did as a way of saying thank you.
On the day of the final show, a co-lead actor told her that she didn’t have to do such a thing and that it was taking too much of her time and energy. She was well-known, well-liked and already the center of the show, so why bother? It hurt her that he thought the special cards she wrote were only to build a reputation within the company and not out of sincere gratitude.
The cards were her way to build up the people that did their best to help in the production, as appreciation for their efforts and recognition of the special things they did for others. It wasn’t a waste of time for her, and she loved it!
So how does this connect to being part of a team?
In a world where competition and the top spot are always prioritized, it is important to help children see all the team players as an equal circle. Each part of the circle is just as important. I like to think of a chain. Each link in the chain is just as important. If one of the links is weak and isn't doing its job, then the whole chain is weak. It's the same with a team. If one person is valued or treated with less importance than another person in the team, then the team doesn't work as well.
When you’re a child in music lessons, feeling like they are a valuable part of the whole program or school is an important part of their development. The harmony in an orchestra relies on every section to produce a beautiful sound. Every person in the orchestra is just as important as the person who sits in the first seat of the violin section. The director is also important, but without each one of the players in the orchestra following his directions and trusting in him, they won’t be able to play together successfully!
Children learn to look for and appreciate other people's good qualities and contributions; they will also be able to see theirs. If parents and teachers focus on a student's highest achievements as their focus and point out their faults continually, then the child quickly learns to do the same to others.
Once when I was teaching an orchestra rehearsal, I asked the 30 children the janitor's name at the school. It took them a while, but eventually, someone knew. I challenged them all over the next month to find John and tell him that they appreciate all he does to keep our school clean and safe. It was a wonderful month and John sure had an extra sparkle on his face and in his walk!
I'm reminded of another story of a young teen who auditioned for a big musical theatre production in our city. It was her first time auditioning and she was one of the youngest there. Most of them had more experience and were older than she was. Her hard work while taking lessons for 6 years, paid off, as she was assigned the lead role! It was amazing to think that on her very first try that she was given such an honour! She did such an amazing job and especially for someone so young. She gave an incredible performance on each show. On the last night, her teacher came up and gave her a bouquet for a job well done and two more bouquets for two of her students that were also in the production that had smaller roles. Her teacher told them how proud she was, sincerely telling them how all of the hard work they put into the production is appreciated and how their performance touched a lot of hearts. The lead girl rushed over to her classmates to tell them what an amazing job they did, not minding the praises given to her and honoured her teacher and classmates first before accepting hers. Their teacher was touched by the girl’s humility and how she viewed the production as one whole team and the other actors with smaller parts above hers. She was an example that children can develop qualities to be kind and humble and to see others as their equals.
Learning to be a good team player takes practice, just like learning to play an instrument does. Learning to notice all of the players on a team and what they do is something you practice too. When you help your child to understand that everyone is important, including the people seen and not seen, then they will feel better about themselves when they place first in a competition or don't place at all but they know they participated with their best effort. They will have a clear message from you that it's not being the top or the best that gives you value but instead doing the best you can and being proud of your efforts.
Here are more ideas to develop a Team Player Mindset:
1 - Discuss why you are grateful for three other musicians in your school or program. Send them a message, make them a card, or tell them how they contribute.
2- Smile at three new people you don’t know well at your next class.
3- Hang out at break time, before, or after a rehearsal with someone you usually don’t.
4- Write a special note to your teacher telling them why you appreciate them. (Make complements specific and with examples)
5- Before you go to orchestra or group class, make a game where you will notice something new about someone on what they did that contributes to or makes them unique. Share what you noticed afterwards with a parent.
6- Make treats and share them at your music class. Serve your treats to others by passing them out one by one and smiling at each person (some children need to practice this and find it hard)
7- For any holiday, make homemade cards for people that contribute to your school or in your community. (Firepeople, grocers, street cleaners, crossing guards etc.)
8- Learn a few new jokes and tell them to people you usually don’t talk to at your school or group classes.
9- Possibly one of my favourite ideas :) Leave a surprise anonymous note for someone in your school or community to find at work. (It just might be found when they REALLY need a pick me up and feel appreciated)
10- Teach your child sometimes to be first but also to be last and help someone else to finish with them. Find ways to learn and practice that.
Little things go a LONG way. Starting with a simple smile, until smiling at a new face becomes a habit that later becomes a routine whenever you first walk into a room. Everything is a process; these are small steps to help you get started. You’ve got this!
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