Competition Vs. Collaboration

Our topic for the #Compelledtribe is Competition Vs. Collaboration.  Although I am inspired by this topic, it is always challenging for me to formulate thoughts that I think the reader might connect with.

As a child, I was competitive. Not in the way you might think, though.  I did not compete against others for awards, championships, or medals.  I was not an athlete. I competed against myself. The idea of always pushing myself to improve, work harder, study more, was instilled by my mother. I think this was due to our home situation as well as cultural beliefs that surrounded my family growing up. Things like, “You are responsible for your own actions. Don’t ever bring shame upon the family. You will be judged by your actions,” were common threads of conversation heard in my home as a child. By today’s standards, these mantras may sound dated, even harsh to some, but those are the ideals I grew up with.

As a parent, I am less strict than my mother but there are still similarities in how I parent my own children and who I am now is a direct result of how I was raised. I think my competitive spirit is good because it pushes me to improve my own practice everyday.


So would we say that collaboration is the antithesis of competition? I don’t think so.

This year I run my administrative meetings differently than last year. Last year, I was using them as informational opportunities only. They were boring and lacked collaboration, competition, communication, or even conversation. The meetings were me talking and my administrative team listening (kind of). As I have grown through my PLN, regular reading, and recognizing my own competitive desire to improve myself, I began to approach my work differently.

This year, our administrative meetings are working meetings. The team receives their agenda ahead of time in a shared Google document where admin can review, reflect, and read resources before we come to the table. I always include a “problem of practice” that encourages competition and collaboration.

One example of this is my desire to improve staff attendance in our district. We need to model for our students that school is important, that we want to teach our students, and that being together matters. If teachers are not present, students will not be either.

At every monthly meeting, I share the percentage of teachers present for the month prior. This is competitive because each Principal can see who which school demonstrated the best attendance. I always acknowledge the winning Principal with a gift card for him/her and by granting a free “dress down” day for their staff.

Then the collaboration begins.


The winning Principal shares the strategies they have used to improve staff attendance.  This has resulted in buildings sharing ideas with one another and inspiring each other to do better.

Competition and collaboration CAN co-exist and can improve everything we do. This applies to education, fitness, health, parenting, and just about anything else you can think of.  I have also observed that the more open we are to collaboration, the more growth occurs for the individual and group.

I have also encouraged collaboration in the classroom, amongst teachers and students. Sometimes in education, we are still fighting an antiquated system, reflective of days gone by.

It is our responsibility as educators to maximize the potential of our talented teachers and students by embracing collaboration and creativity. It is only through these efforts will we see improvements in education that our students deserve.


Author: karenwoodedu

Karen Wood is the Superintendent of Schools in Barnegat, NJ. With twenty-three years in education, Ms. Wood's career has been spent primarily in administration. She enjoys mentoring novice administrators and being connected to inspirational educators and leaders across the country.

8 thoughts on “Competition Vs. Collaboration”

  1. Karen, I love the idea of working together to role model the kind of attendance we want from our students! You are right, that is so important. Your transparency as a district leader has been very inspiring to me. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Karen,
    I love the problem of practice idea that you shared. I especially like how it is a requirement that the leaders share what they did to improve, that collaboration piece. It makes them intentional about the improvement, allows other leaders to try the ideas and most likely sparks new ideas. I’ll be looking for ways to incorporate this into my classroom! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post, Karen! It reminds me of the necessity of the all-important ask: “What will YOU bring to our organization?” By acknowledging the good work being done by your admins and then asking them to share, you are leading them, truly, to step-up and buy into a very positive learning culture. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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