A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Kindness & Teamwork: A Mindset for All Ages

Posted by Kristin Crawford on February 22, 2018

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It is hard to believe it was almost two months ago when many of us were developing resolutions for the new year. As we know, all too well, absolute resolutions are quickly and easily broken. This year I thought maybe a mindset resolution is better than an absolute. So, the resolutions I set out for our Lower School students are more of a mindset. We are asking the children to keep in mind two ways of thinking about others:  being kind and being part of a team.

An embedded mission in our Lower School is enabling children to be their best and truest selves. Yet, to be your best, truest self is not enough. Only caring about yourself is narrow and unproductive to the community. Kindness is an action which requires putting someone else's needs before your own. As I explained to the children, being nice and being kind are different. A person can be nice without doing anything.  However, being kind requires action. It takes effort and thought. Kindness asks you to attend to others and not always pay attention to yourself.  

Being part of a team has similar requirements: think of others, watch for what others do and determine how you can help the effort. Many times, in teamwork, you accomplish more than you can alone. Our children are learning the power of teamwork whether on the soccer field or in the classroom every day. Challenges and triumphs inevitably arise in teamwork, as a third grader recently pointed out in a community team project.  She noted challenges such as team members absent due to sickness, disagreements, or individuals trying to talk at the same time. But she also mentioned that the triumphs of the team project included better ideas, more work getting done in class time, and more fun. At the end of the project, all students agreed the triumphs of teamwork outweighed the challenges.           

About a week ago, I sat down with a group of our parents who are leaders in their industries. A diverse group, with representation from a variety of segments of the workforce from a minister to an international banker to a videographer, we gathered to think about the trends they see. Almost all of them stress the need for teamwork and communication, no matter what their field. Technology and ever-changing systems will continue to change more quickly than we can keep up; yet, the need for teamwork and kindness will remain. Kindness to oneself and kindness to others. Teamwork on the field, in our families, and in the workplace.      

As we look ahead and toward the future, a mindset of teamwork and kindness are going to be more important than ever. Even the tech entrepreneurial leaders are realizing the critical value of these “softer” looking skills. I encourage you to take one minute to watch this video of Jack Ma, from the World Economic Forum.  

When faced with the desire for expediency as a parent, do not hesitate to stop and ask your children to take the active step of thinking of others, as opposed to doing it for them. We do them a disservice to allow them to think they are the center of the world.  Our children feel immense love; asking them to think of others will not diminish that feeling. It will only grow the love towards others.

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Topics: Communication and Children, Raising Resilient Lower and Middle Schoolers, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Kristin Crawford

Written by Kristin Crawford

Kristin Crawford, the Lower School Principal at Westtown School, has over 30 years experience in elementary education. In her 25 plus years of classroom teaching, she led Pre-K to 12th grade curricular review work, empowered children to restore a marsh and woodlands, initiated programs for local nursery school teachers and pushed to add Mandarin in a lower school. A fascination with how children think motivated her to develop a physics lab for young girls and a design lab at Westtown. With a Masters in Independent School Leadership from University of Pennsylvania, she moved into Admissions and then to divisional leadership. Kristin says "By far the favorite part of my job is the children. Children always have their own way of thinking, and we adults don't always get it. They make my laugh, they make me think and they make me want Lower School to be the best school for them. When school is over each day, I want to be outside. Actually, I often want to be outside during the day and have been known to take my phone outside to the sun and air to answer emails."