I honestly believe that every one of our team building events is special in it’s own way. Every client we work with has a unique story and every company song we help create is unique. But once in a while, something comes along that’s extra special. For me that usually revolves around my work with schools. This month I had the opportunity to lead a school team building program at the Johnson School of Excellence. This school was one of the lowest performing schools in Chicago until a few years ago. But now, as part of the Academy for Urban School Leadership and thanks to a passionate, dedicated teaching staff, this school is becoming a vibrant part of the community. I jumped at the opportunity to spend an afternoon at Johnson School.

Chicago School Team Building Goals

The principal of Johnson School had three goals that created a special challenge for our song session…

  • She wanted to provide an activity to allow her professional staff to bond and get to know one another better.
  • She wanted staff to share their both their individual and shared goals and ideals for the school.
  • And…she wanted to create a school song, an alma mater that could be sung by pre-school through 8th grade students.

Hit songwriter Tony Haselden with a student musician

I wasn’t sure how we’d integrate the adult team building conversation into a song that could be sung by younger children.

I decided to let this play out and see how it evolved, hoping we’d get to where we needed to go. We began with adult questions, back and forth banter – our usual song creation brainstorm. This is the part of the program in which those first two goals were met; bonding through music and fun, sharing ideals, goals and expertise. But I was still nervous about how we’d get from all of that adult stuff to the childlike simplicity required of a school alma mater.

About half way through our program, I asked everyone to look at the video screen in front of the room as we scrolled through our lyric ideas. Were there big themes, simple themes, honest themes, that kids would relate to? Guess what? They were all there! We didn’t have to force a mash up of adult goals and student goals. It was an affirming moment for everyone in the room. We collectively realized that our free flowing conversation had created a laser sharp focus on the school’s mission and key lessons for it’s students.

We listen, we learn, we show concern

We follow our Wildcat Ways
At Johnson we strive to do our best
Showing excellence every day

Safe, respectful, responsible, ready
To learn, achieve, succeed and to lead
We won’t be done ’til we’re number one
We follow our Wildcat Ways

This was a great day for all of us. I can’t wait to expand our Chicago school team building and create an entire album of alma maters!

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.