What's the difference?
A clique is defined as a small group of people with shared interests/activities who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them. Cliques are often exclusive and can cause a feeling of oppression or isolation with regard to those that they exclude.
A team, on the other hand, is defined as people who come together to achieve a common goal. Of course teams can be exclusive too, but that's not something we generally expect of teams.
As we grow our teams in schools, we have to make sure that we are not growing cliques. In the best of circumstances teams are open, fluid, flexible, and inviting--working together to maximize the collective genius of a group it serves or a group it is a part of.
When a team becomes a clique, their efforts become less effective, open, honest, and positive--cliques have a way of banding so tight that they often can't see or hear new ideas, information, potential, or possibility. When this happens cliques can harm an organization and individuals, even individuals in the clique, rather than strengthen a group.
Policies and protocols often serve groups well with regard to building team and avoiding cliques. Our local union board has many protocols in place to invite equitable voice and participation. If people want to get involved, the door is open to their ideas and contribution. This is good. Similarly, our grade-level team is not a clique, but a team that works with many to support our shared teaching model.
Every team has the potential to become a clique, and teams have to work against this possibility. Some ways to avoid becoming a clique include the following:
- Invite. For example if you belong to a leadership team, make it a practice to invite members of the groups you lead regularly to your leadership team meetings. Another example would be for our grade-level team to invite parents, students, and other colleagues regularly to our PLCs in an effort to represent the ideas and contribution of the entire learning team.
- Accept. Do not judge, but instead accept all interested parties into the work you do.
- Build trust: Don't judge people on past acts or behaviors, but be open minded to their willingness to be apart of the team.
- Welcome change: Change can often work for the better of a group.
- Step out of your comfort zone: Take responsible risks to better the work you can do and the camaraderie you support.
- Dignity: Don't forget that everyone brings worth to the groups you belong to.
- Be kind and helpful: Look for ways to support the team and follow through with that as often as possible.
- Listen: listen twice as much as you speak.
- Look out for others: Pay attention to what others need.
- Encourage: Look for ways to support and encourage one another to build a strong team.
- Collaborate: Find ways to work together to support the goals and needs of the entire group.
These attributes would actually make for a good discussion in my fifth grade classroom too as it's a time when children begin to create cliques, and those cliques can be hurtful and exclusive.
I will think more on this, but in the meantime, the bottom line is that while teamwork is positive, cliques are often not positive, and it's good to work towards greater team and collaboration with this in mind.