Classroom Rules – When to Compete and when to Collaborate

By Dominick Cooper, Director and Lead Creative Tutor of Launch Academy, Winner of the DaVinci Scholar Award, and University Guest Speaker

It’s a messy world in the classroom.  Gossip.  Ulterior motives.  Melted crayons.  So the question is “When do you collaborate with your peers to do get ahead in class or when do you go Clint Eastwood and do it by yourself?

Thankfully, there’s a few easy ways to help you filter through that.

Compete when:

He gets a 4.0 every rootin’ tootin’ day.

1) You rock the socks at this concept –  If you’re the type of person who loves to watch The History Channel and read books by David McCullough, you’re probably better off relying on yourself in History class.  Of course, since you are the best,  others will try to copy you – this is the way of things.  Walk the moral road, my child.

2)  There are high stakes (individually) – If you’re taking a test that makes us 90% of your grade, I wouldn’t trust somebody else’s work for a New York minute.  If you really need help, go see the teacher.  They’re not your enemy and, chances are, they’ll show some understanding when grading your test because of your initiative.

3)  When you care about your GPA –  What’s that? You’ve been a 4.0 student since birth and this possible 3.9 is freaking you out?  Don’t stress out!  Grades are important and you are the only one accountable for them, but worry and stress just compound your thinking skills.  So how do you stop stressing?  Well, according to The Mayo Clinic, you just think happy thoughts!  A glass-half-full mentality goes a long way.

Collaborate when:

“By any means necessary!”

1)  It’s your “not-so-good” subject – So you somehow made it to Geometry and you still don’t know what a denominator is.  Don’t stress!  Find a friend in the class who actually knows what they’re doing.  How do you do this?  Say “Hey!  I know we don’t really talk but you are like amazing at geometry.  Do you think you could help me with this?”  It’s really that easy.  But don’t seek help from a goofball just because they have a funny personality.  You’ve then got “blind-leading-the-blind syndrome” and the only remedy is a swift kick in your pants (which is usually an F on a test)!  Be smart the first time.

2)  You do a lot of projects –  Does your class do a lot of group projects?  Well, if you are lucky enough to choose your groups, get paired up with smart people! “Hey!  Is it alright if I work with you guys?” Are they really going to say no?  If you can’t choose your group, then take on the leadership role – you heard me.  Effective leaders know how to delegate.  So simply divy up the harder tasks to other, more knowledge students, and you do what you can!  Everybody wins.

3)  You’re just a people person – It’s well known that some individuals work better and learn better in groups.  If that’s you, then learn away!  But be sure you’re learning.  Deep, question-based discussions are the stuff of great learning but facebook gossip is the molasses of success.  Get in a group, take control of yourself, and learn like a pro!


Stay Smart.

– Dominick


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