We’ve all had that feeling. The teacher from next door has popped through to your room and spotted something on a desk. “Oh that looks like a great activity! Mind if I grab a copy?”. Of course you reply, “Yeah sure, go ahead” but inside you’re thinking about the one and a half hours you spent prepping that awesome activity.
And that inkling of resentment trickles into your stomach.
You know that it’s the collegial thing to do. That person’s your friend. But in a way you feel cheated because you’ve given something without the promise of something back. You might get taken advantage of. You might not get credit for the effort you put in.
It makes sense to have those feelings. Cast your mind back to the dreaded Group Assignment at uni and in floods the bitter memory of that lazy group member who rocked up at the eleventh hour only to be awarded the same grade as you.
But what if we acknowledge that feeling and choose instead to focus on what can be gained. Stop replaying that Group Assignment in your head. It's not a competition.
We know for a fact that there are more than enough excellent lesson plans, ideas, knowledge and experiences out there in the teaching community to go around. And we know that the struggles we face as individuals extend far beyond our own classroom and school. If us teachers can’t stomach helping each other, who else can we bank on to have our backs?
We need school cultures of collaboration over competition.
During my time in London, I got the opportunity to work for the free-from ice cream company, Mama Dolce. Outside of learning about copywriting, branding and life in the startup world, one thing that really stayed with me was the whole culture of collaboration. And I’m not just talking about within the company. In fact, all of the articles I wrote for Mama Dolce were created through collaborations with other companies, entrepreneurs and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).
I thought the business world was the pinnacle of competition. Turns out my way of thinking was a little outdated.
‘Collaboration over competition’ at Mama Dolce involved working with companies with similar values like sustainability, other entrepreneurs from ethnic minority groups and a range of SMEs in the food and manufacturing industries. Rather than keeping to ourselves, we shared knowledge, skills and resources between us.
This meant that we were able to create better quality content, founded in experience and research. Additionally, with access to multiple platforms and audiences, we could get that content out to a much wider group of people through social channels, emails and so on. Not to mention, it made the startup path much less daunting, knowing that there were others in the same boat who could relate to the struggle and offer support.
So though we may be led to believe that competition is what gives us the edge, it can actually be the ability to collaborate that brings out something bigger and better.
I challenge you to let go of the competitive nature that is ingrained in our societies and be open to seeing things another way. I know that it takes two to tango but we all know the power of modelling when it comes to our teaching - so let’s be those role models to our colleagues. Let’s make collaboration something so good that everyone wants in.
Because we all benefit. And we all feel better for it.
Share that lesson plan. Make an extra copy of that resource. Lend a hand on that wall display. Suggest another idea. Listen, learn and apply new knowledge. Create the coolest celebration of learning day that any of you have ever done. The opportunities to collaborate are endless.
Once collaboration over competition is woven into our school cultures, who knows just what a force Team Teachers could unleash?
I know I want to be there when it does.
Be purposeful teachers
Who are in control
And know they’ve done enough.