Cut the Competition

Last week’s Faculty Talent All-School Meeting (ASM) featured faculty performances that also included several students – an appropriate deviation from tradition given that the theme for this ASM was “Collaboration.”

Male faculty members sang “It’s Alright” with their group, The Dorkies, inviting Nate Redding ’16 to join them on the stage. Later, Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students for Personal and Community Education, brought Nurilys Cintron ’15 to the stage to sing “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran alongside Peter Lorenco, Instructor in Music. Hoyt said he organized the faculty entertainment ASM to highlight the importance of collaboration, specifically collaboration between faculty and students.

“For the last ASM, I wanted to do… a song with some kids involved. I think breaking that barrier was a good thing to do, illustrating collaboration across the generations,” said Hoyt in an interview with The Phillipian. “You don’t have to think very hard about it to realize that a boarding community is, in many ways, about explicit collaboration between kids and older folks. That’s why we live together: so we can enhance learning in that way. That’s where the theme came from, starting with thanking the folks from the [Polk-Lillard Center] and then getting Nate onstage and then Nurilys being part of it. We broke the barrier between faculty and student entertainment. I think it’s really sweet and exemplifies what we try to do here… [I think that] collaboration is a big piece of what Andover should be about.”

As a school that places strong emphasis on academic, extracurricular and athletic success, the Andover environment sometimes becomes competitive. According to the 2015 State of the Academy Survey, 36 percent percent of students said that they find Andover’s competitive nature to be damaging, compared to the 33 percent who find it motivating. Only two percent asserted that there was not a competitive nature at Andover.

Competition is a natural consequence of living with students who know how to excel individually. We also work under the additional pressure of competing with each other for leadership positions and college admission. This level of competition fuels a stressful, cutthroat environment that many students find damaging. By working toward creating a community that values collaboration, one in which students can excel without necessarily competing, we could work toward reducing the stress that is felt by many Andover students.

These efforts would, of course, take time and commitment. The pillar of “Empathy and Balance” outlined in the Strategic Plan aims to “prioritize mutual understanding and individual well-being as essential to a thriving community,” according to the Strategic Plan’s website. The Strategic Plan offers the perfect opportunity to implement changes that encourage collaboration – a move which would ultimately lead to greater individual happiness.

The new plan should include a more collaboration-based class curricula, forums on collaboration and a mandatory course on collaboration and how to work effectively with others. Encouraging students to work together would be a great step forward in reducing the competitive atmosphere that many students find damaging, which would help us advance the Strategic Plan’s goal of improving the mental wellness of students at Andover.

Editor’s Note: Nate Redding ’16 is a Cartooning Editor for The Phillipian.