A Kids Book About: The Podcast

AJ and Ava Talk About Teams

Episode Summary

AJ Thomas, author of A Kids Book About Teams, and daughter Ava Thomas talk about how teams are everywhere, and you’ll be a part of so many throughout your life!

Episode Notes

AJ Thomas, author of A Kids Book About Teams, and daughter Ava Thomas talk about how teams are everywhere, and you’ll be a part of so many throughout your life!

A Kids Book About Teams (view book)

Courage Takes Flight (view book)

Full Book Description:

A team is any group of people who have a shared passion or goal, and do you want to know something fun? Teams are EVERYWHERE. You’re probably a part of more teams than you realize! You’ll belong to lots of different teams throughout your life, so open this book to learn what makes a team most successful, and how you can best work with others to achieve awesome things!

About the Author:

AJ Thomas (she/her) is a writer and speaker who believes that with a special group of people, and a combination of curiosity, courage, connection, and kindness, great things can happen!

Episode Transcription

A Kids Book About: The Podcast

AJ and Ava Talk About Teams



Matthew: What is does it look like to be part of a team?

Ava: It looks like acknowledging each other's ideas, but when you want to challenge an idea or you want to build on an idea, you do it respectfully. And, you know, you make sure that everyone feels like they're included.

AJ: I think what it looks like to be part of a team is that you have a shared purpose together and that you're able to have discussions not only about the good things, but probably about the things that you're stumbling on together while you're getting to that goal.

And most importantly, having fun. You gotta have fun. 

Matthew: Welcome to A Kids Book About: The Podcast!  I’m Matthew. I’m a teacher, a librarian, and I’m your host. 

The voices you heard just a moment ago were from Ava and AJ. 

Each week we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. 

AJ: Hi, my name is AJ Thomas. I am a lover of life, musician, artist, working in technology. However, I am also the author of A Kids Book About Teams, and the co author of Courage Takes Flight, which I wrote with my daughter, Ava Thomas.

Ava: Hi, I'm Ava and I am a lover of music and currently in 7th grade and I really like to spend my time making sure that I have good relationships with my friends and that I focus on the things that I like. 



Matthew: Hello, listeners! 

How many of you are part of a team? What teams are you on now or have you been on in the past? Being on a team takes a specific set of skills and doesn’t come naturally for everyone. That’s okay, of course! Today we’re going to explore how to be a good teammate as well as why working together as a team is sometimes better than working alone. (And why sometimes it’s not.)

They say, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” So, AJ, what’s gained by working together as a team?

AJ: Yeah, I think the value of working together as a team is that you don't always see things 360 degrees, right? You don't have eyes in the back of your head. Sometimes moms say that they do, but wink, wink, they don't. She figured that out.

And I think what's really important is that you have an opportunity to have somebody who can see the other sides of things that you don't when you're on a team. And especially if you're going after a goa, of course, you have your own perspective, your own vision of what you want to see, how you want to move forward, but it's always awesome to have somebody either on the left, on the right, or behind you that can also see other things, because you're sharing that perspective together and therefore, you know, achieving it becomes much more possible because you can see all the angles.

Matthew: Being on a team does not always mean an easier time for everyone involved. In fact, you may have even been on a team before and not realized it. And in not realizing it, you weren’t able to problem-solve as a team.

AJ: I think what's hard about it sometimes is that you're on a team, but you might not even understand that you are on the team. That you may be part of something that you don't realize is a team, right? 

There's a lot of things around team being in sports, uh, team, especially in the grownup space, working, working with your team at work. But did you also know that, you know, your brother or your sister or your cousin, if you're trying to do something together, you can approach that as a team, right? Or your mom or your dad or your friends. Those are also your teams. 

But sometimes it's hard to be on a team because you have so many different perspectives. And you're going to clash sometimes, but having the courage to be able to talk about that is probably one of the most important things I would say when you are part of a team so that it doesn't just become this big thing, this monster that's going to come at you later and pop up when you don't expect it.

Matthew: AJ wrote A Kids Book About Teams, but she also co-wrote a book together with her daughter, Ava. And as a rising 8th grader, Ava has had many different experiences with being on teams.



Ava: Not only, like, in, in class, like, you know, in math, we get put on, like, the whiteboards, and we have to work with math, and we have, like, randomly generated teams, so we make sure that we work together, and it's not just with our friends that we're going to mess around. 

But I think, uh, one of the successful teams that I see every day at school is I'm in band, and all of us really have to care about band because we have, you know, we have our performances and we have our concerts. And I feel like it's really successful because everyone, you know, cares and they know their parts and they work hard on it. So when everybody knows what they have to do, it becomes really successful. 

Matthew: So there are great things that come out of being on a team, but not all tasks or goals require a team. That makes things a little confusing, doesn’t it? We can accomplish great things as a team, sometimes bigger than what we originally planned. Or completed on a faster timeline. Or taking the project in an unexpected direction because of the culmination and combination of ideas. 

But there are times when working alone may be a better fit. How can we know if a task is better approached solo or as a team?

AJ: I think if you're aware, it's possible to know. But some, most of the time you're not going to be aware because you know, we're all human, emotions happen all the time. 

And what I would say is, you know, especially when you're young, you're searching for a place to belong. You're searching for a place to be, and you know, you're searching for a place to be part of. And sometimes when you're doing that when you're young, and quite frankly adults do this all the time, also, you lose a little bit of who you are, and so you silence yourself a little. You dim your light a little, so that you can fit into this thing. And I think you'll know when it's time to work by yourself or to work with a team when you're sensing that you're no longer being who you are. 

And I've seen that working on teams, when you start kind of forcing things, right? When you start trying to force things to happen, it starts getting a little difficult because you're forcing things because something's not clear, right?

So Ava talked about having that shared goal and that shared purpose. Sometimes when you're on a team, it gets blurry because you're probably moving fast or you need something to happen right now. And what happens is, you start not sharing your talents because you're trying to figure out what the environment is needing. But actually when you're feeling that, you're feeling a butterfly in your stomach or something around that, it's actually a sign to take a step back and just say, “Okay, like who am I being right now? How am I feeling about this?” And being kind of grounded and present about it that you can realize, “Oh, it's time for me to take a time out and do this thing individually because I think we can get things done more.” Or it's time to say, “I actually need to lean in because this is what we need to do to get to that shared goal.”

It's really hard. And I think for kids, it's hard, but also for adults, it's very hard because this is where, you know, team building has to happen. Collaboration happens at the speed of trust. And in order to trust other people, you have to know how to trust yourself. 

Ava: Yeah, self awareness is really important on teams.

You have to, you have to know, like, what you're feeling. You can't always, like, if you don't have that self awareness, you end up kind of delegating a lot of the work because you're just not focusing on what you're feeling and what you're doing. It's just everybody else. 

Matthew: Let’s take a quick break. When we return, AJ and Ava will talk about what it looked like to work together on a team to write a book. And how, as AJ writes in A Kids Book About Teams, “ a team is any group of people who use curiosity, courage, connection, and kindness to solve something together”

AJ: One of the most successful teams that I've been a part of was probably, I mean, it's in the work context, right? My last team that I was a part of at the moonshot factory where I work. 

And what's really interesting there is that it wasn't so much that we were thinking about hierarchy and management that was governing the team. So like who was on top and who was the boss and all of that.

We were actually thinking about how do we create ways to solve problems where we can think about them differently. And what I loved was, you know, the team that I had the opportunity to lead was just a amazing in a way that we had the courage to tell each other when things just were not going the way we wanted them to in service to the goal, not because individually we felt this, that, or the other. It was actually having the courage to say, “Hey, let's stop and take a breath for a second. This is not going the way we need to. Can we revisit the goal?” 

I always find that those are really awesome when it comes to successful teams is that you can be such a craftsman or a craftswoman of your work that you dive into it individually and nothing else matters. But when you're a part of a team, like I said about the blind spots, right? And they can say, “Actually, like you're going really, really deep and you're not seeing this thing on the right hand side. And that could be detrimental for all of us. Can we just check in that we're still solving for the same thing?”

Matthew: We’ll be back in just a moment.



Matthew: Welcome back.

Today on the podcast we’re talking about teams with A Kids Book About author AJ Thomas and her daughter and Courage Takes Flight co-author, Ava Thomas.

AJ writes, “a team is any group of people who use curiosity, courage, connection, and kindness to solve something together”. Listeners, I’m going to ask AJ to break down each of these four qualities for us. While she does, I’d love for you to think about teams you’ve been involved with or ones with which you are currently involved. 

Can you see these qualities come up when you think about your teams? Are there qualities your team could focus on to become even stronger and more cohesive?

Curiosity, courage, connection, and kindness. Here we go!

AJ: Curiosity is the willingness to ask the question that, um, may be left unsaid when you're on a team. Don't hold back, but ask with curiosity, right? Because you never know what you're going to get. I like to say that it's 100 percent “no”, and you have the ability to increase your chances by 50 percent by just asking the question. 

And so in a team, I think that's really important because it can change the way that you make a plan or make a direction or have an approach about how you're going to achieve your goal.

Courage, first and foremost, is if you have the curiosity in your mind, you have to have the courage that when people give you an answer you don't like, that you can actually accept that and say, “Huh, that's a different perspective. And that's not a personal attack on me as a person that gave the idea, but they have a different perspective.” 

And then you go back to, well, let me connect with that person and figure out why is their perspective different? Why is it different from mine? Why do I disagree? Why does my body feel all these heebie jeebies because they're saying things that I don't agree with. 

And then approaching that with kindness to say, “Oh, okay. You know, you and I might disagree or you and I might agree. How might we then now help each other so that we can advance towards the goal?” 

So I really wanted to make sure it was broken down in these very simple ways so that they built upon each other to realize that at any point in time, you're never going to be a self made person. No person in this world is a self made person. We are all a product of all the people that have poured into us. And they have been a member of our team whether we know it or not, right? 

And so having these things, the curiosity, um, the courage to be able to face the answer if you ask the question The way to lean into connecting with that person to understand the difference if it is different. And then the way to enact kindness to figure out how you can support irrespective of your points of view, I think is a very important alchemy of being on a team.

Matthew: As mentioned earlier, AJ and Ava are not just a team because they’re in the same family.

AJ: We wrote a book together. So we were a mother and daughter writing team. Um, we wrote a book together called Courage Takes Flight and had very different skills that we brought to the table to bring this thing to life. 

Ava: Well, it's like, I, I want to, I have this really good idea. And I want to share it with you, and I want to do it with you, and I want to do something with you. Like, uh, I want to, I want to share a shared idea between me and you with a lot of other people. And, you know, I'm choosing to do this with you, and I know that we're going to make a good team when we do it.

AJ: Yeah, it's funny because, um, Uh, I don't know if Ava remembers this. So every four years we take a trip.

Ava: I remember. 

AJ: And it is our E4Y, every four years. And I think on one of those trips, it was actually the one where we went on another train ride at the time when she, um, was about 8 turning 9 years old, uh, and She's like, I like want to write a book. Remember we took like the pens and the notebooks and I was like, what would he even write about?

And so we were like, well, courage and, um, kindness. And so all of the things that actually ended up in the Kids Book About Teams, but we ended up, you know, you know, “Hey mommy, maybe we should write a book about this.” And I was like, “Yeah, maybe we should.” And she's like, “How hard could it be?” 

And I was like, “Ooh, two things. Don't ever ask me how hard could it be because then I'm gonna want to go figure out how do we do this. And the other piece was like, wow, that would be fun. I don't think we've ever, that would be really cool to just do an experience together.”

Matthew: Working in a team can be challenging because you really have to listen to one another and allow space for each team member to have ownership in the project. AJ and Ava paid special attention to that while working on Courage Takes Flight.

Ava: Well, I mean, I always feel comfortable talking with my mom, but of course, like, she's my mom. Sometimes when I say stuff she's not going to agree and it's like, “Okay, I just got to listen.” 

So, but. Like, especially when we were writing the book, she made sure that I was comfortable, like, if I wanted to present an idea that she would very, like, like I said earlier, like, respectfully challenge it or be like, “Wwell, maybe we can try something else. It's a good idea, but we're going to relate it into this other thing. What do you think when we do that? 

Like, just making sure that it was a comfortable space and made sure that I could say what I wanted and then she would try her best, you know, to either, you know, Very politely turn it down if it was really crazy, or, um, just work it into the book if we couldn't do that exact thing.

AJ: Yeah, it was, I think for me, I mean, it was It was one of my funnest collaborations because, number one, you're also it's kind of I have a lot at stake as her mom like also like this is an experience we're doing together right? And I think it was just really important that we both had an equal so we were co-authors of the book right um and so it was like it was important for us to have both an equal stake around it.

And even like to the point where we were trying to think about what charity we give you know we give to, right? Because 50 percent of the portions of the book actually go towards the World Literacy Foundation or the Malala Foundation. And so it was like, we were trying to figure out what that looked like. And that was a lovely add for her. She was like, “Well, I have this idea. Like, if we're going to create a book, we should create a way in which more people can read a book.  And so maybe we give back from that.” And I was like, “I had never thought of that.”

Yeah, It was a beautiful experience. 

Matthew: Listeners, there are teams out there that cannot accomplish their goal without your vision or input. There are also teams where your support and kindness and inclusion of others can lead to great successes. 

AJ: You're going to be a part of so many teams throughout your life and you won't be on every team forever. I think that's really important to realize for kids that, you know, especially sometimes when you're going through transition from even like middle school to high school or, you know, elementary school to middle school, you're gonna have these friends and sometimes they will change. You're gonna have these things and goals and stuff that you think about together and sometimes they change. 

And I think what Ava said was really important is like getting to know who you are so you could show up. being kind because there might be some other team that might need you even more and you don't even know it. And so sometimes I think when you're going through those transitions in those early stages as a kid, um, you got to give yourself a little bit of grace. And, sometimes you won't be on every team forever and that's okay, right? That's okay. 

Ava: Yeah, that you need to take, you know, having, uh, knowing yourself first is really important so you can have that courage to make decisions. So when you have to push people away or you have to just, you know, leave those teams, you'll, you know, be part of a much better team.

Matthew: Our time’s almost up. I’m about to send you back out into the world. So let’s  think about how we’ll use what we learned today in order to step out into the world in a more intentional and, perhaps, meaningful way.

AJ, Ava, are there any actions we, the listeners, can take to include, support, and encourage our teammates, whether they be our friends, family, or members of our community?

Ava: I was talking about self awareness earlier. It's just like, you know, take the time to know yourself first, just to, you know, make sure that you're being kind to other people, so they'll trust you, and then when you give that advice, that'll make much more of an impact, you know.

“Come on, let's work together.” And they see that you're, you're very confident in yourself, and you're confident in your own decisions, and they'll be like, Oh, okay, I'm gonna follow this person”. And then you'll become a team, not necessarily leader and follower, it's like, we're Right? 

AJ: Yeah, I mean, I would say one practical thing is if you see somebody on the team that you're working with and they're either quiet or in the corner, enact that curiosity to just ask even just something as simple as “Wow are you doing? How is this landing for you? Or, or, um, You know, what's the next thing you're thinking about when it comes to this goal that we're trying to do?” 

Like, enact that curiosity, um, and have the courage to listen. 

Ava: Yeah, be inviting. 

AJ: Yeah, have the courage to listen because I think including people, um, all people ever want, at least I've realized in the, you know, 40 years I've been on this planet, right? People want to be seen. They want to be heard. 

But it's so important that they feel seen and heard as well. Um, and part of that is just sometimes asking a very simple question and including them in the conversation. If they're just over there doing their thing, you don't know, they might be going through something and you can offer a life changing perspective or they can offer a life changing perspective for you.



Matthew: Thank you to AJ Thomas, author of A Kids Book About Teams, for joining us today. And special thanks to Ava Thomas for joining, too.

A Kids Book About: The Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner. Our executive producer is Jelani Memory. 

And this show was brought to you by A Kids Co. 

Follow the show wherever podcasts are found and check out other podcasts made for kids just like you by visiting akidsco.com