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Creating a Culture of Helpfulness

After viewing Margaret Heffernan's 2015 TEDTalk entitled, "Forget the Pecking Order at Work," I found myself appreciating the team of creatives with whom I work. It is refreshing to work in an environment where the only competition is to produce a more excellent product than the previous item. I have worked on teams of "super chickens" that peck away innovation, creativity, and collaborative trust while demanding conformity and undying allegiance to this cause. The truth is a younger me was a "damn good" "super chicken" that could have been the general of a "superflock." As a "super chicken" teacher, I measured success in terms of scores. For instance, did I have the highest curriculum assessment scores in the grade level, school, or district? Or, I would compare my state assessment data to my district or the state outcomes…even my colleagues. Although the data showed I might have been successful on paper, the stress and anxiety took a toll on my enjoyment and purpose for being a teacher.

Heffernan stated based on MIT research, the following three characteristics tend to make teams more successful and productive (TED, 2015, 03:08-04:53):

  1. They have high degrees of social sensitivity or empathy for other team members;

  2. They have open communication where all voices or ideals are valued; and,

  3. They possessed more women as members.

She goes on to suggest that social connectedness is the cornerstone of "social capital." Social capital is defined as the reliance and interdependency [of team members] that build trust. I genuinely believe this is the premise for the education PLC (professional learning community). However, many PLCs are data meetings lead by an administrator, data analyst, or instructional coaches discussing scores instead of professionals collaborating and learning from one another in a safe environment.

My favorite quote by Heffernan…

"There was a lot at stake then, and there's a lot at stake now, and we won't solve our problems if we expect it to be solved by a few supermen or superwomen. Now we need everybody because it is only when we accept that everybody has value that we will liberate the energy and imagination, and momentum we need to create the best beyond measure." (TED, 2015, 14:52-15:26).

TED. (2015, June 16). Margaret Heffernan: Why it's time to forget the pecking order at work [Video]. YouTube.


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