This morning I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and came across a blog that had been tweeted entitled “Schools are for Showing Off, Not Learning.” I must admit, I had quite a strong reaction to the title (perhaps its intention) and read through.
The author states “When we enroll our children in school, we enroll them into a never ending series of contests—to see who is best, who can get the highest grades, the highest scores on standardized tests, win the most honors, make it into the most advanced placement classes, get into the best colleges.”
Having read the article entirely, I can see the author’s point- that one should aspire to learn in a way that is less about competition and more about engagement. However, I believe that perception and healthy attitudes play a very large part in defining whether something is seen as a contest or, alternatively, is seen as something towards which to work for individual growth.
At St. Clement’s there is an appreciation for the need to shift from simply numerical outcomes to a focus on individual feedback that informs potential growth. This has been occurring for several years now. There is no question that we want our students to be engaged and passionate about their learning for the sake of learning and not for the sake of potential accolades. Schools must ensure that their environments encourage individual students to want to stretch themselves and reach their potential. It is important to remind 470 high achieving girls that they do best when setting their own personal goals measured by their own growth rather than against the growth or achievement of others.
Having said this, I believe it to be unrealistic to aspire to learning environments and experiences devoid of competition. Life beyond school is filled with competitive situations and our girls must be prepared for the ups and downs and have the skills to rebound when things don’t go their way.
I was reminded of this as I sat in assembly and listened to Amelia, our Sports Captain, speak to our Grades 1-12 students this morning about her tryout for the National Women’s hockey team at the end of the summer. Amelia spoke about being one of four goalies competing for just two spots and noted that she had worked harder than she had ever worked before. She reflected on the competitive experience and the high expectations she had placed on herself. Amelia also spoke openly about how she had cried for a very long time when she learned that she had not been selected. Most important, Amelia shared that while it was an extremely disappointing time, she decided to take what she had learned and to bring it back to her own hockey team. Amelia learned from her experience and chose to use it for growth.
Amelia’s message reflects reality- what life is like and yes, there are ‘contests’ out there that will be difficult and challenging.
Let’s remember that schools ARE for learning and that contests and competitions, while not always appropriate, are certainly opportunities to learn.