Competition in the Teaching World is OK and Maybe Even Important

I want to be the best math teacher. That means that I have a strong desire to be better than I was last year. That also means that I want to be better than you.

Teachers get worried that including competition takes the focus away from why we are really here: the students. It should not be about competing against each other. Rather, it should be about helping each other be the best we can be for our students. So why doesn't competition belong, then? I will share all of my curriculum. I will give advice to teachers if they ask and share any wisdom I have gained. If you are working with me, I am going to do everything I can to help you be a better teacher, and I hope you will do the same for me. I will also work really hard to be better than you, and I hope you will do the same for me. Competition does not have to be ruthless. It can be a positive factor that ultimately drives us all to be better for our students. At the end of the day, if you are better than me, well great. Your students are lucky to have you. But I will do everything I can so that I can be better than you tomorrow. I will learn from you. I will take what I can from you and make it my own. Maybe I will come up with something that will inspire you, and now you will have something to work on.

Competition in Other Fields

When Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg said Boeing would put a man on Mars before SpaceX, Elon Musk said "Do it." Yes, Musk would probably prefer that Tesla take over the auto industry and for SpaceX to beat everyone to Mars. However, the most remarkable thing about his companies is how they have driven their competition. All of the major auto companies are now working on electric cars. Boeing now wants to send a man to Mars. Musk is saying that he wants his company to be the leader in these endeavors and he is daring other executives to be better. Regardless of who comes out on top, our world will be better because of the competition between these companies.

There are videos of some of the best basketball players in the world going at each other in pick-up games. By participating in these games, they are helping players on other teams become better. They all want to be better players, and they want to be better than each other, but they still work out together. They push each other. The best game that was never seen by the public was a pick-up game consisting of players from the 1992 dream team representing the USA in the Olympics. The ultimate goal was to beat the rest of the world and walk away with a gold medal. On that day, however, the goal was to beat each other. Everyone on the floor knew they wanted to be better than the guy next to them. They also trusted that everyone else had that same drive. In the end, it made the whole team better.

It is Not a Time Competition

Competing does not mean staying later than the person in the classroom next to you. It is not about who is logging more hours. This type of competition can be dangerous and can lead to sleep deprivation, deteriorating mental health, and ultimately less effective teaching. Drive for Kobe Bryant meant going to the gym at 3 am and staying for 5 hours. That type of schedule would not work for most people in the world. LeBron James supposedly invests 1.5 million dollars a year towards keeping his body and mind healthy. Most people do not have that type of capital. How each teacher uses their time to improve their practices can look a lot different for each individual. I am in no way saying that teachers need to be putting in longer hours. But can we be working harder? Well, that's up to each individual to decide. It is important to remember that mental health, rest, and endeavors outside of our careers are important. However, when I am on, I am on. When it's time to work, the competition is on, and I will do everything I can to be better.

So Let's Compete

Every student deserves an excellent education. While I am happy with what I did last year, I know that I can do better. Thus, I am going to continue to push myself, because that is what my students deserve. I look around my school and I follow a lot of teachers around the world and I think "These people are amazing. I want to be better than them." Let's go back to Elon Musk, though. While my personal goal is to be better than you, the overarching and more important goal is that we are all better for all of our students. If you are my colleague, I hope that we can push each other towards that important goal.


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