Originally posted at educatedtodeath.com
We’ve had several meetings this year that have all had a similar message: “create a competitive environment in your classroom to motive your students”. We are told that they respond well to competition. They should always strive to do better than their neighbor. We are also expected to tell them that they are working toward a reward, even though we can’t decide what the reward will be, or even if it will exist at all. And, at the same meetings we are told to put students in groups to “work together”.
I understand what “we’re” shooting for at my school. We’re in trouble with the state—deep. Our goal, rather, our prescribed goal is to do anything we can to get the state of our asses. Administration is fumbling for any answer—little bits of 3rd hand research they’ve picked up at workshops and mashed together with whatever dung the consultants have passed down. Encouraging heavy competition between individuals and then asking for group collaboration is a bit contradictory. I understand this is an oversight. They’re worried. We fear for our jobs.
The collaboration side of this equation gets swept to the side fairly quickly unfortunately. It’s the unfed dog in the fight. Collaboration does not come naturally among my colleagues. We’ve been compared and divided by test scores, academic subject areas, grade levels, and meetings involve listening to one person ramble on about how we need to work together, but we never get the chance. So teaching collaboration is quite foreign for many—impossible for others. And, it cannot be ignored that the real goal for the higher-ups is to get the scores up to keep jobs and what-not, and I’m sure somewhere the really-higher-ups just want to keep everyone divided and on the never ending challenge of always outdoing thy neighbor (I’m sure this statement is just a mad raving of a cynical fool).
So what are we to do? What am I to do if I find encouraging brutal competition among my students unethical, cruel, counterproductive, and unfortunate? I’ve been reprimanded for not putting the sticker charts on the wall for my students to chart their progress against their neighbor. My learners happen to be working with each other—motivated as a group for the sake of the group and the learning.
Certainly, humanity first.