Skip to main content

Competition vs. Collaboration


As soon as I read that the common topic for our #CompelledTribe blog posts this week would be competition vs. collaboration
I was on high alert. 
I flinched. 
I bit my tongue. 
I was on the defensive.

Collaboration, yes. Competition, no. This has been my mantra.

Nevertheless, I decided to set aside my gut reaction long enough to really think about this. 

So, here's the monologue I carried out with myself:

Me: Is there such a thing as healthy competition? 
Me: Yes, I think so. For example, team sports are competitive because you're competing against another team. At the same, it's an example of healthy competition because there's a lot of teamwork and collaboration involved in order to win. 
Me: So, I can imagine how collaboration can work to make an institution, organization or workplace competitive in its field. 

(Pregnant pause right about now.)

Me: And, what about toxic collaboration? Does that exist? 
Me: Absolutely! Collaboration that is mandated with little to no planning or inclusion of participants' voices and expertise is likely to fail. Human beings crave voice and choice. When we don't get it, we don't do our best work.  

So, now that we've established that both healthy competition and toxic collaboration are possible, we can suggest the opposite to be true: toxic competition and healthy collaboration are also possible. Can we then further argue that competition and collaboration can co-exist, perhaps even thrive, so that we can get the best of both worlds?

Perhaps.

What if we consider (healthy) competition, but against ourselves? What if the truth of the matter is that we are always competing against ourselves, even if we're not aware that we are? What if the purpose of competing against ourselves is to make ourselves over? To create the next iteration of who we are? A better us?

Now, that idea reminded me that competing against others is never fair. Why? Because we are all different. We have different perspectives and experiences. For example, some of our students know how to do school, while others do not. Is it fair, in the sense of effective student learning, to have students compete against their peers for the highest grade or the best score on an assignment? I don't think so. 

Should we therefore eliminate all forms of competition? I'm not sure that's desirable or even possible. However, we can promote instances of healthy competition whenever possible.  

This is the kind of classroom and school culture that many of us strive to create - (healthy) collaborative spaces where students can safely explore learning and make themselves over again and again (healthy competition) into better and better versions of themselves.

So, what do you think? Am I just confusing the issues here? What is your thinking on competition vs. collaboration? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.  






         


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Partner Reading and Content, Too Routine (PRC2)

I'm a hoarder.
There, I've said it.
I try to deny that I'm a hoarder but it comes back to haunt me every time I move houses, or pack up my classroom at the end of the school year.
I have old articles, lesson plans, handouts, folders brimming with teaching ideas, past issues of profesional journals. I hardly throw anything out though I've learned to be more selective over the years. My one rule of thumb, and I really try to stick to this, is that if I haven't used or referred to something in a year, then it's time to toss it into the recycle bin. One exception to this rule (you knew this was coming, didn't you?) is past issues of journals from professional organizations. However, with the ability to locate articles online through my professional memberships, even this exception is becoming less and less useful, which brings me to the topic of this blog post.
I am currently reading a copy of The Reading Teacher from 2010. I've clipped a couple of informat…

The Reading Strategies Book - Chapter 12, Supporting Students’ Conversations – Speaking, Listening, and Deepening Comprehension

The strategy lessons highlighted in Chapter 12, Supporting Students’ Conversations – Speaking, Listening, and Deepening Comprehension, in The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo are critical to students’ engagement and comprehension, as well as their ability to write literary essays, or even book reviews, summaries and reflective pieces about books. If students aren’t able to talk about books in a way that is invigorating and joyful, they will be less likely to develop an interest in growing ideas for writing about books.
In her introduction to this chapter, Jennifer Serravallo, reminds us that when conversations go well, children are inspired by what they read and are motivated to keep reading. However, when conversations fall flat, then kids get bored and tune out. How do we avoid this situation and teach kids to have focused conversations about books? The answer is easy: teach kids strategies to help them develop effective conversational skills. 

As in other blog posts a…

Saying Goodbye

I can't get used to saying goodbye to my daughters even though we've been doing it for the past 10 years. You'd think it gets easier, but it doesn't. It still feels like the first time.

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.*
At the airport, I watch families with their young children and try to remember what it was like when my girls were little. What I felt like. What I was doing at the time. What we weren't doing. Was I even aware of the passage of time?

When my kids were little I lived so much in the moment that there was no time to reflect on the fact that our time as a family was measured. Sooner than we were ready, we would have to let them go. Send them on their way. Wish them an abundance of everything, but especially of love, health and joy. 

They come through you, but not from you.* 
I nod and smile, a li…