“Collaboration” is one of the words that is often discussed in what is crucial for our students today. There are so many variations and quotes surrounding the idea that we are better together, and with that, I would totally agree. The problem sometimes with this is that collaboration is often seen as the opposite of competition. In reality, the two should actually support one another.
Here is when competition is bad…
School “A” is competing with school “B” for students. Because of that, they are not willing to share the things that they are doing with other schools because these are now “trade secrets”, and giving them away to the “competition”, might actually reduce enrolment. Although the idea of not sharing your stuff to gain a competitive advantage, is sometimes a fallacy (if no one knows you are doing anything great, why would they come?), this mindset is not about helping kids, but helping ourselves.
And here is where competition is great…
I was having a conversation with a district level coordinator that told me about two high schools using the same hashtag to share amongst their schools for the same subject. The collaboration between the schools was beneficial to not only the teachers, but more importantly the students. The competition came in when one of the schools did an activity that the other school was not doing and the kids thought it was amazing. Not wanting to be outdone, the other school quickly had their own similar activity, with some tweaks to make it better. Both of these schools are more than willing to help one another, yet not wanting to be outdone. Who is the ultimate winner of this competition? The kids.
I don’t know one teacher that wants to have the classroom that kids don’t want to go to, yet I have seen a lot of teachers that are reluctant to share. When we see “sharing” as something that both supports and pushes us to be better, the big winner will always be our students.
Competition is only a bad word in education if our students are the ones losing out.