Tis the season of the testing, falalala la la la laaaa. (yes, sing it to the tune). Let’s face it, testing is real. We can all sit on our high horses and say what we want about state testing, common core testing, or whatever brand of testing you happen to give… but it is a fact of life. With testing comes a certain sense of competition. The question, however, is whether or not competition has a place in the classroom.
We must remember that every choice we make has an impact on students. If what we do is not healthy for students, then it should not be done. So, is competition healthy for students? As teachers, we naturally get a little competitive with test scores. We want to be the best. Personally, I think a little less of people who are content with not striving to be their best, to climb that proverbial tree of mediocrity. I know that I want my students to perform better than any other, so yes, I am competitive… and I think that this competitiveness is perfectly healthy for students.
Now, before those of you who think this is High School Musical and we should sing songs about being in this together start throwing rotten vegetables at me, stop… think. I never said we are not in this testing game together, I said I am competitive. As long as our competition does not get in the way of working together as a team… we are good. As long as it doesn’t transform us into robots who do test prep worksheets all day, we are good. As long as we continue to push the envelope, drive the students to perform and think at high levels, we are good.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best. Compare a professional sports team to a classroom, if you will. You are the coach. Your students are the players. In a sport, there are often multiple players aiming for the top spots, the first string. The same should exist in the classroom. At the same time, however, when it is game time, players have a sense of unity. They do everything they can to do the best for the team. They help each other, they offer advice. This is the culture we need in schools.
I create a culture of competition in my classroom. My students strive to read more than other students in the room. The result, I have students reading a lot of books… many of these are students that entered my room at the beginning of the year claiming they don’t/won’t read. Competition.
We are forced to live in an environment of testing. That doesn’t mean that we need to be enslaved to the test. If we can function as a team, being both competitive and helpful at the same time, we have the potential to achieve great things.
So, I challenge you, in this ever stressful time of the year. Dare to compete. Inspire students to compete with each other. Take the time to teach that competition can be friendly and beneficial.