Sunday, May 3, 2015

Collaboration not Competition

We often hear those in politics and the media talk about education in business terms. They talk about the virtues of competition making schools, teachers and students better. Competition, after all, is market-driven and the market solves everything.

Never has anything been more wrongheaded. Schools are not businesses. Schools do not thrive on competition. Schools thrive on collaboration. Teachers and students thrive on collaboration. Through collaboration, everyone gets better. We must do our best to reject the intellectually bankrupt idea that schools will be successful if we make them "competitive" and reward financially only those schools who perform well according to arbitrary criteria that we create.

Teachers know that we are better when we work together toward a common goal. We know that students benefit from the best of all of us, not the best of one or two of us. There are teachers in my building who do many things way better than I do. Why would I NOT enlist their expertise when a kid needs it? Should I be competitive and say, "No, you cannot access that teacher's expertise. You are MY student!" Lord, no! I do not want to limit my kids' learning because of my own shortcomings as a teacher or person. I want the kiddos to be able to access the best of everyone in the building.

Often we write grants for technology and materials. We are fortunate to have a supportive community that helps fund our grants. When we get something new, the first thing that we do is tell everyone else, "This is ours, all of ours. If you need it, use it." I know that in some places, teachers hoard new things that they get for their classrooms, preserving it only for THEIR students. But really, aren't all of the kids in the school THEIR students? Of course they are.

The 3D printer that we got on a grant three months ago has been a hit. Since we got a case of filament cartridges last week on another grant, we are in good shape. Lately, kids from other teams in the school have been coming down to use the printer. Our kids use it too, but we don't limit the use to only our team kids. After all, we feel that every student in the school is one of OUR students.

A couple of weeks ago, a teacher from a district elementary school asked to use the 3D printer for some of his kids' projects. We replied, "As soon as our new filament comes in, bring those kids over!" This coming week, those elementary kids are coming over to use the 3D printer. It will be a lot of fun watching those kids as their ideas are brought to life in all of their 3D glory. We could have hoarded the supplies and technology for our classrooms only, but that is not what teachers and schools are all about. We are about collaboration and cooperation and the learning of ALL children. Maybe business should take a lesson from US!

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