Thursday, July 10, 2008

Competition...A change in perspective

This morning as I sat down to write this blog I thought I would write about testing in our schools (and in life) but that is for a future time...

When I was in college I read a book about cooperative games. You work together and emphasize play, participation, challenge and fun rather than defeating someone. Competition in my mind was not a good thing since there was always going to be someone that had to lose. How could that be positive in the life of a young child or for the world for that matter? The idea of working together in a game without anyone "losing" and feeling sad because of it, was pleasing to me.

This idea could be applied to life. No winners or losers - cooperation and problem solving. I began teaching more than 20 years ago and had this philosophy in my classroom. Very young children are easily guided by the adults in their lives. If I emphasized cooperation then the students would follow. I cannot say how successful I was in affecting change but as the years have gone by I hope that my students have become cooperative problem solvers.

I became a mother in 1989 to twin sons. In the womb and since, they have been competitive, with each other and with the outside world. I was taken by surprise by this different and strong part of my sons being. I had to deal with it. I do not know how much of the competition is because they are boys. I had also thought before having children of my own, that boys and girls were more or less the same, molded by their environments and their genetics. Thoughts on that have changed too. In 1993 our daughter was born and she is in some ways more competitive than my sons are.

In the years since college my thoughts about competition in our lives has changed. My kids have taught me a lot. Competition is everywhere and it is not a bad thing. I know that all of us are competing all the time. I have also learned that we cannot cushion our children so that losing won't hurt. As adults we have to help our kids keep things in perspective. How we deal with winning and losing in life is much more important than whether we win or lose.


  1. Heidi-
    What a wonderfully thoughtful and sensitive look at this concern. It was surprising to see you add to its power by your own personal anecdote. Thank you.

  2. I remember being in college and being asked to write a list of beliefs about education. I remember writing something like, "I believe cooperation and competition can coexist."

    It seems your post matches that belief. There's nothing wrong with either one, and incorporating both prepares students for the real world. I think sometimes we see competition as the irate parent on the sidelines at the soccer field, but rather than shy from competition we should use that as a teachable moment.

    Thanks for making me think today.