Beating others or doing well?

Day 25: Smile!

This morning I found out that ‘Human’ came second in the “Best New Blog” category at the 2008 Edublogs Awards. The quick, competitive part of me went “oh bugger, a handful of votes and I’d have won it” but then the wiser part of me thanked again, firstly the thousands (!) of people who have taken their time to read and engage with my blog since May this year, secondly a number of people around the world who nominated ‘Human’ for 2008 Eddie and thirdly, the people who clicked next to my blog’s name on the voting card. It really is an honour.

Is this starting to sound like “show-me-a-good-loser-and-I’ll-show-you-a-loser” script right now? Someone bitter to have come second going all phoney philosophical? Not quite I’d say…

I have competed many times and at the highest level as a water polo player (and other sports and roles). There the competition was necessary, prepared and called for. The whole point was to win that game, cup, league, championship etc. In each case, the prize was scarce, reserved for the winner, not for the trail of losers. There was adrenaline, we pushed hard and did as best as we could. Sometimes competition is truly wonderful and exhilarating. And I have always loved winning, you bet! This is where this morning’s immediate “oh bugger” comes from – but it didn’t last long.

I quickly refused to worship the ‘false God’ of competition this morning and feel like ‘the first loser’. Why? Because I have not written a single word in my blog with the intention of winning a(ny) prizes or awards. I am owed absolutely nothing, yet I have gained so much by writing ‘Human’. In fact, to be nominated by peers was probably a bigger thrill than voting and (not) winning and/or coming second (to Angela who has done a great job). But there is another part of me that has sat uncomfortably with the idea of competition.

Every day I see the havoc the ‘false God’ of competition wreaks in the game of education many of us are a part of. The zero-sum mentality of winning and losing that pits students, schools, districts, indeed the whole countries is like junk food. Nicely packaged, addictive, brilliantly marketed, quick to consume – but it is bloating, fattening crap that is kinda good sometimes (yes, I do enjoy the odd drive-through burger) but you would not want to live on it. Yet it continues to ruin so many of them, while shortchanging the future and potential of so many brilliant (young) minds.

If you pause and think for a moment – when you set something against ‘the other’, the winning (grades, awards, prizes, scores…), rather than doing well (learning, improving understanding, acting ethically…), becomes the focus. Yet the winning is relative. You can win by actually doing worse than before, as long as others are worse than you. Does that sit comfortably with you? Would you teach like that in your class? Would you tell the maxim “it’s OK as long as there is someone worse than you…” to your grandchildren as a wise old (wo)man one day?

This year I have been irrevocably drawn by some of the wonderful antidotes to unhelpful competition. Blogging, Web 2.0, Moodle, Open Source software, social networking, to mention a few, are not about competition but all about collaboration between real people freely sharing, learning, critiquing (we need more of it in the blogworld!, not to be confused with criticising) each other’s work. In short, they transcend rivalry.

The amount of new insights, collections of resources etc. freely available has certainly enriched breadth and depth of my knowledge and experience in many fields and ways this year. In all of this, I have strongly felt a growing sense of a supportive community instead of the market mentality.

Or as A. Kohn puts it “the bottom line is not victory for some, it is learning for all”.

OK, here come my Christmas “thank you”s…

To all my readers and particularly the contributors/ commentators a massive THANK YOU (honestly, I would mention every one of you and link to your blogs and sites but I DO have to sleep !).

I knew only a handful of you before starting ‘Human’ this year. Seven months later, I feel like we have known each other for years.

I’m (b)logging off for a few weeks to spend more time with my family and enjoy the summer holidays, recharge my batteries, then hopefully make ‘Human’ an even better place to share and learn in 2009.

Best wishes to all !

PS Congrats to Angela Maiers for winning the Best New Blog Eddie 2008! Some great stuff there, go and visit. Well done!

8 thoughts on “Beating others or doing well?”

  1. Great post! All the best for Christmas and keep on blogging – and Moodling – in the New Year. Summer holidays?? What summer holidays? It’s winter up here 😉

  2. Tomaz-
    What a beautiful and inspiring post. My sentiments are the same. The nomination really is the honor. I remember just a year ago, starting to blog, thinking that there is no way this blogging thing can work. Who will read me? Who is going to care? Why should I add this work to me already busy day?

    This year has been a phenomenal experience of learning, sharing, and connecting with some of the most amazing minds in our field. That is the reward-seriously this is what matters most in this work-Finding like minded( and sometimes not so like minded) people who want to change lives of children.

    I thank you for this blog and all you do everyday for your readers. It is an honor to be in the conversation with you and so many others who share our passion.

  3. Well done & good stuff, Tomaz!

    I thought you may well win but coming second is a fine effort.

    Now, we can see how addicted you are blogging. If any posts appear (or a major revamp) before about mid-January, you have issues ;O)

    Have a great and safe holiday season with your family. I look forward to your posts and collaborating in 2009!

  4. Nice post. Not as nice as some…….. just kidding. Have a Merry Christmas and I look forward to reading your posts in 2009.

    All the best!!!

  5. Tomaz
    Second does sound reasonable, silver is Ok, tarnishes a tad, first of the losers, must try harder in 2009. Just think, you’ll assume the crown if first is scandalised “Worldpeace, harmonytoallmankindand ….” I’ll seriously have to rethink wasting time on a “seconds” blog. How demeaning.

    (For those who may think I’m being serious, think again, it is all said with levity)

    Well done mate and enjoy the blogfree summer zone, this may well be my last as well for a while.

  6. Tomaz, Well done with the blog, enjoy the good weather, It is currently starting to freeze outside and We are expecting -6 (In the cities, if you beleave the TV this week end)
    Enjoy time with your family mate, chill out. “The Labourer deserves his reward, as my dad used to say” Take the reward.

  7. If you pause and think for a moment – when you set something against ‘the other’, the winning (grades, awards, prizes, scores…), rather than doing well (learning, improving understanding, acting ethically…), becomes the focus

    … and sometimes that’s exactly the point. We introduced Mathletics here 2 years ago and it’s amazing how many students who detested mathematics were willing to participate in competition. Their grades shot up through incidental learning.

    Personally I’d much rather compete in a sport than attend a gym to stay fit. I love the competition, but detest the exercize. Playing sport means I get the exercize for free.

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