Teaching as Competitive or Cooperative?
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Teaching as Competitive or Cooperative?

Teaching as Competitive or Cooperative?

The last week or so, I’ve had ideas thumping around in my head that I just can’t seem to wrestle into a cohesive stream of consciousness. So, I’m just going to start blogging and see if they resolve themselves.

I’ve long struggled with the idea of teaching becoming a competitive profession. While competition is appropriate in a free market society, I think it’s wrong to treat education like a business. I admit that competition can be healthy and motivating for some individuals, however, imagine a system where teachers are hoarding their best lesson plans, unwilling to share ideas or manipulatives, because they want their students to have the highest test scores in the school. Imagine a system where teachers close their blinds and lower the shades, for fear that a colleague might see a new strategy that they “steal” in order to advance their position or salary. Is this what best serves the needs of all students?

I believe that teaching was meant to be a cooperative profession, and through cooperation, we will help all students to succeed. But….

Maybe I’m wrong…. maybe teaching must evolve into a industry in order to undergo the major shift that must take place for our teachers, students and school systems to reach the next level.

Point one, we complain that teachers are underpaid, and that our profession does not attract the quality of student we seek. Top performing students from high school and college generally seek out professions with large incomes and education does not provide that. So how can we change this? Public schools funded with sponsorships from private businesses? State pay scales that include increased income for level of education, national board certification, certification in specialities or additional areas, mentoring…?

Point two, in public education we serve the masses, a general population with curriculum geared to the “average” and who attend in large numbers. Industries specialize, they take people who are passionate about their cause and help them to become the best they can be in their field. In our current system, we educate kids in a liberal arts style, and provide them with very little opportunity to explore their passion.

I’m starting to feel that we need to do more as a society to focus on educating individuals, not masses. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that we don’t educate all, I’m saying that we need to focus our education system on meeting the needs of each person, not the constraints of a budget. We need community schools that are much smaller, with class sizes of 10 and 12, not 30. We need schools that are specialized, and enroll students that are passionate about the focus, rather than in attendance because the law mandates it. We need systems that ebb and flow with the needs of the community rather than swing with the pendulum of curriculum reform.

So wait… maybe it’s competitive and cooperative at the same time. I’d love to hear some feedback on the idea of education being a competitive industry. Would this be the start of a brilliant new beginning for the US education system, or its downfall?

Image: Eco-Holdings
18 Comments
  • Jason Flom
    Posted at 00:58h, 19 May Reply

    Teaching — Competitive or Cooperative? Your thoughts? http://bit.ly/u79Mi

  • Jason Flom
    Posted at 01:04h, 19 May Reply

    @irasocol “competitive teaching” might be good for the kids. Works for the markets, mostly. Would it work for schools? http://bit.ly/u79Mi

  • Jason Flom
    Posted at 12:17h, 19 May Reply

    Worth the read! RT @lhiltbr: teaching as competitive or cooperative? http://bit.ly/BjVzd

  • Jason Flom
    Posted at 12:18h, 19 May Reply

    Oops. Meant to add hash tags. RT @lhiltbr: teaching as competitive or cooperative? http://bit.ly/BjVzd #edreform #teachertuesday

  • Chad Ratliff
    Posted at 12:23h, 19 May Reply

    RT @JasonFlom: Worth the read! RT @lhiltbr: teaching as competitive or cooperative? http://bit.ly/BjVzd

  • kdwashburn
    Posted at 12:25h, 19 May Reply

    RT @JasonFlom:Worth the read! RT @lhiltbr: teaching as competitive or cooperative? http://bit.ly/BjVzd #edreform #teachertuesday #education

  • Ira Socol
    Posted at 12:33h, 19 May Reply

    !@chadratliff should parents compete for their children’s attention or cooperate? http://bit.ly/BjVzd market-based child rearing

  • John Mikulski
    Posted at 12:45h, 19 May Reply

    Reading: “Teaching as Competitive or Cooperative?” My answer – It’s collaborative. Best of both worlds. http://trunc.it/6v9p

  • National Wildlife
    Posted at 13:26h, 19 May Reply

    RT @JasonFlom Worth the read! RT @lhiltbr: teaching as competitive or cooperative? http://bit.ly/BjVzd

  • chadratliff
    Posted at 13:46h, 19 May Reply

    You raise great questions here. It could be argued that the individuals inside an organization actually work more collaboratively when that organization is in a competitive environment with like entities. Thus, the theory of competition wouldn't pit teacher against teacher, but schools against schools. Would the strongest teacher be more willing to assist the weakest if the entire school were the beneficiary? That's the general idea behind effective team function. I do not agree that all competition is healthy. They key is where the competitive force lies.

  • jasonflom
    Posted at 18:16h, 19 May Reply

    Once again, you make great points, Jess. However, I've got to play the roll of obstructionist and devil's advocate.

    Let's do a little math. Millions of students, system-wide teaching shortages, and districts trimming budgets well past flesh and into bone. Add it all up and the answer is “community schools that are much smaller”?! How? Where's the money? Where's the political will power and motivation (except from teachers who are too lazy to do their jobs in the first place)? What're we going to do, hire and keep a legion of warm bodies who can't teach in order to have smaller class sizes? Perhaps we need to do the opposite and make teaching more elite. Trim back the number of teachers to those who can both instruct and collaborate effectively, fill the classrooms to capacity, and expose kids to only the best. With a smaller number of teachers in the salary pool each one can be paid at a higher rate. Same budget. Same schools. And only the teachers with proven track record will gain access to the minds of tomorrow. Sure, it'll be the salt mines for those few, but the higher pay will attract additional elites looking to make some Benjamins.

    As a teacher in a small community school with small class sizes, I could not agree with you more. I see the benefits for students and teachers (and parents) everyday. Smaller, more personalized communities can only serve to better meet the needs of all learners. Plus, such situations provide teachers enough time to pursue their careers as professionals. It is a non-vicious cycle. The favorable conditions beget more favorable conditions.

    The question for me is, where do we start when trying to implement on a larger scale? We've been trying smaller class sizes in Florida since you were teaching here. You've seen how far that Constitutional Amendment went.

    In some ways it goes back to needing a system-wide reform with long term goals in mind. The schools you speak of are not immediate gratification schools. Politicians can't expect to get re-elected on the test scores the year after these schools open. Their benefits may well take a generation or two to come to fruition.

    I look forward to you exploring this idea of competition and cooperation further, especially as it relates to class and school size.

  • Jessica Horton
    Posted at 19:34h, 19 May Reply

    25 minutes ago
    Chad, I definitely see your point about about how schools competing with each other can help teachers to collaborate to help the school as a whole succeed. We were definitely seeing that trend when FCAT came out because schools became competitive with each other for those top scores. And I think it kind of goes against the nature of teachers to ruthlessly compete, not sharing lessons or ideas, so I'm not sure if making schools more competitive would actually change the fundamental behaviors of our kind. But I sure didn't like the way we were publicly flogged. I've never disagreed with standardized testing, it's an important tool to assess progress and modify instruction, but why publicly beat a group of kids that is already down? Let schools get their scores, let the district analyze them and modify policy, administration, curriculum accordingly. Of course the parents should have access, and provide the information to those who search public record. Just don't grade us! It's humiliating and demoralizing.

    Jason, if I knew the how of how to make all my brilliant ideas work, don't you think you would be calling me Governor Horton by now? I just dream it….
    No seriously, I'm a dreamer and idealistic, and all the great ideas I have would take a major shift in the thinking of the masses, but if you think about how far we have come as a nation in just the last few decades, (segregation – integration – Obama), then you realize that anything is possible. More importantly, people support honesty, integrity, and equality, so if we really focus on what's right for kids, I think that the population will follow suit. My mentor Bobbie Buckingham told me time and time again, you have to be 100% for the child. If everything you say and do is with the child in mind, then the parents will respect what you say. They might not respect it today or tomorrow, but they will respect that you have the best interest of their child in your heart. Therefore we must plan educational policy only with the children in mind and let the dollars follow suit, not allot dollars first and make the schools follow suit.

    I was thinking today as I was listening to XM radio. A discussion was taking place about antibiotics being used in farm animals raised for slaughter, and how it was contributing to the development of MRSA strains of infections. They also mentioned a local farmer who said that he didn't use hormones because the increase in production was negligible when compared to the cost of hormones and the safety/health of the animals. Then the host pointed out that this was just a local farmer, not a huge mass production minded farm. Which led me to the thought…. why aren't our local groceries buying local? Why aren't our school lunches being made using locally grown food? Why have we disconnected with the resources that are directly in our grasp?

    Futhermore, why aren't we requiring more involvement from our student's families? Everyone has various gifts and talents that contribute to the education of our kids, why aren't we learning how to pull more from our communities and citizens to further our schools?

    I agree that from a budgetary standpoint, community schools with teeny class sizes may seem impossible. And even though the voters of the State of Florida agreed that class sizes needed to be small (and grant you 22 was much better than 30 in a portable, which I had one year), 22 was still twice as big as I think we should aim for. Start by holding out the carrot… attract more professionals to education with bonuses, opportunities to advance and increase your salary and benefits with service and training, and repayment of college loans. Work on establishing more charter schools, with sponsors that support the mission of the school (i.e Nike could sponsor a school that specialized in athletic development , River Sports Outfitters could sponsor a school that focused on outdoor education). And inspire (or demand) the community/parents get more involved not just with dollars, but with time.

    Okay enough daydreaming for now….

  • chadratliff
    Posted at 20:46h, 19 May Reply

    You raise great questions here. It could be argued that the individuals inside an organization actually work more collaboratively when that organization is in a competitive environment with like entities. Thus, the theory of competition wouldn't pit teacher against teacher, but schools against schools. Would the strongest teacher be more willing to assist the weakest if the entire school were the beneficiary? That's the general idea behind effective team function. I do not agree that all competition is healthy. They key is where the competitive force lies.

  • jasonflom
    Posted at 01:16h, 20 May Reply

    Once again, you make great points, Jess. However, I've got to play the roll of obstructionist and devil's advocate.

    Let's do a little math. Millions of students, system-wide teaching shortages, and districts trimming budgets well past flesh and into bone. Add it all up and the answer is “community schools that are much smaller”?! How? Where's the money? Where's the political will power and motivation (except from teachers who are too lazy to do their jobs in the first place)? What're we going to do, hire and keep a legion of warm bodies who can't teach in order to have smaller class sizes? Perhaps we need to do the opposite and make teaching more elite. Trim back the number of teachers to those who can both instruct and collaborate effectively, fill the classrooms to capacity, and expose kids to only the best. With a smaller number of teachers in the salary pool each one can be paid at a higher rate. Same budget. Same schools. And only the teachers with proven track record will gain access to the minds of tomorrow. Sure, it'll be the salt mines for those few, but the higher pay will attract additional elites looking to make some Benjamins.

    As a teacher in a small community school with small class sizes, I could not agree with you more. I see the benefits for students and teachers (and parents) everyday. Smaller, more personalized communities can only serve to better meet the needs of all learners. Plus, such situations provide teachers enough time to pursue their careers as professionals. It is a non-vicious cycle. The favorable conditions beget more favorable conditions.

    The question for me is, where do we start when trying to implement on a larger scale? We've been trying smaller class sizes in Florida since you were teaching here. You've seen how far that Constitutional Amendment went.

    In some ways it goes back to needing a system-wide reform with long term goals in mind. The schools you speak of are not immediate gratification schools. Politicians can't expect to get re-elected on the test scores the year after these schools open. Their benefits may well take a generation or two to come to fruition.

    I look forward to you exploring this idea of competition and cooperation further, especially as it relates to class and school size.

  • Jessica Horton
    Posted at 02:07h, 20 May Reply

    Chad, I definitely see your point about about how schools competing with each other can help teachers to collaborate to help the school as a whole succeed. We were definitely seeing that trend when FCAT came out because schools became competitive with each other for those top scores. And I think it kind of goes against the nature of teachers to ruthlessly compete, not sharing lessons or ideas, so I'm not sure if making schools more competitive would actually change the fundamental behaviors of our kind. But I sure didn't like the way we were publicly flogged. I've never disagreed with standardized testing, it's an important tool to assess progress and modify instruction, but why publicly beat a group of kids that is already down? Let schools get their scores, let the district analyze them and modify policy, administration, curriculum accordingly. Of course the parents should have access, and provide the information to those who search public record. Just don't grade us! It's humiliating and demoralizing.

    Jason, if I knew the how of how to make all my brilliant ideas work, don't you think you would be calling me Governor Horton by now? I just dream it….
    No seriously, I'm a dreamer and idealistic, and all the great ideas I have would take a major shift in the thinking of the masses, but if you think about how far we have come as a nation in just the last few decades, (segregation – integration – Obama), then you realize that anything is possible. More importantly, people support honesty, integrity, and equality, so if we really focus on what's right for kids, I think that the population will follow suit. My mentor Bobbie Buckingham told me time and time again, you have to be 100% for the child. If everything you say and do is with the child in mind, then the parents will respect what you say. They might not respect it today or tomorrow, but they will respect that you have the best interest of their child in your heart. Therefore we must plan educational policy only with the children in mind and let the dollars follow suit, not allot dollars first and make the schools follow suit.

    I was thinking today as I was listening to XM radio. A discussion was taking place about antibiotics being used in farm animals raised for slaughter, and how it was contributing to the development of MRSA strains of infections. They also mentioned a local farmer who said that he didn't use hormones because the increase in production was negligible when compared to the cost of hormones and the safety/health of the animals. Then the host pointed out that this was just a local farmer, not a huge mass production minded farm. Which led me to the thought…. why aren't our local groceries buying local? Why aren't our school lunches being made using locally grown food? Why have we disconnected with the resources that are directly in our grasp?

    Futhermore, why aren't we requiring more involvement from our student's families? Everyone has various gifts and talents that contribute to the education of our kids, why aren't we learning how to pull more from our communities and citizens to further our schools?

    I agree that from a budgetary standpoint, community schools with teeny class sizes may seem impossible. And even though the voters of the State of Florida agreed that class sizes needed to be small (and grant you 22 was much better than 30 in a portable, which I had one year), 22 was still twice as big as I think we should aim for. Start by holding out the carrot… attract more professionals to education with bonuses, opportunities to advance and increase your salary and benefits with service and training, and repayment of college loans. Work on establishing more charter schools, with sponsors that support the mission of the school (i.e Nike could sponsor a school that specialized in athletic development , River Sports Outfitters could sponsor a school that focused on outdoor education). And inspire (or demand) the community/parents get more involved not just with dollars, but with time.

    Okay enough daydreaming for now….

  • Jessica Horton
    Posted at 02:34h, 20 May Reply

    25 minutes ago
    Chad, I definitely see your point about about how schools competing with each other can help teachers to collaborate to help the school as a whole succeed. We were definitely seeing that trend when FCAT came out because schools became competitive with each other for those top scores. And I think it kind of goes against the nature of teachers to ruthlessly compete, not sharing lessons or ideas, so I'm not sure if making schools more competitive would actually change the fundamental behaviors of our kind. But I sure didn't like the way we were publicly flogged. I've never disagreed with standardized testing, it's an important tool to assess progress and modify instruction, but why publicly beat a group of kids that is already down? Let schools get their scores, let the district analyze them and modify policy, administration, curriculum accordingly. Of course the parents should have access, and provide the information to those who search public record. Just don't grade us! It's humiliating and demoralizing.

    Jason, if I knew the how of how to make all my brilliant ideas work, don't you think you would be calling me Governor Horton by now? I just dream it….
    No seriously, I'm a dreamer and idealistic, and all the great ideas I have would take a major shift in the thinking of the masses, but if you think about how far we have come as a nation in just the last few decades, (segregation – integration – Obama), then you realize that anything is possible. More importantly, people support honesty, integrity, and equality, so if we really focus on what's right for kids, I think that the population will follow suit. My mentor Bobbie Buckingham told me time and time again, you have to be 100% for the child. If everything you say and do is with the child in mind, then the parents will respect what you say. They might not respect it today or tomorrow, but they will respect that you have the best interest of their child in your heart. Therefore we must plan educational policy only with the children in mind and let the dollars follow suit, not allot dollars first and make the schools follow suit.

    I was thinking today as I was listening to XM radio. A discussion was taking place about antibiotics being used in farm animals raised for slaughter, and how it was contributing to the development of MRSA strains of infections. They also mentioned a local farmer who said that he didn't use hormones because the increase in production was negligible when compared to the cost of hormones and the safety/health of the animals. Then the host pointed out that this was just a local farmer, not a huge mass production minded farm. Which led me to the thought…. why aren't our local groceries buying local? Why aren't our school lunches being made using locally grown food? Why have we disconnected with the resources that are directly in our grasp?

    Futhermore, why aren't we requiring more involvement from our student's families? Everyone has various gifts and talents that contribute to the education of our kids, why aren't we learning how to pull more from our communities and citizens to further our schools?

    I agree that from a budgetary standpoint, community schools with teeny class sizes may seem impossible. And even though the voters of the State of Florida agreed that class sizes needed to be small (and grant you 22 was much better than 30 in a portable, which I had one year), 22 was still twice as big as I think we should aim for. Start by holding out the carrot… attract more professionals to education with bonuses, opportunities to advance and increase your salary and benefits with service and training, and repayment of college loans. Work on establishing more charter schools, with sponsors that support the mission of the school (i.e Nike could sponsor a school that specialized in athletic development , River Sports Outfitters could sponsor a school that focused on outdoor education). And inspire (or demand) the community/parents get more involved not just with dollars, but with time.

    Okay enough daydreaming for now….

  • Ernesto Gonzalez
    Posted at 13:54h, 03 July Reply

    … “Teaching as Competitive or Cooperative?¬†|¬†Ecology of Education” ( http://bit.ly/13MYSD )

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