Staff Stance: Unhealthy Sense of Competition

At the start of the school year, Hockaday issued our I.D. cards on colored lanyards, distributed according to each girl’s Green and White Day team. This addition to the uniform annoys us for several reasons: it’s one more thing to remember each morning, it broadcasts our unfortunate book distribution pictures for all to see and the open side of the case makes losing one’s I.D. a weekly occurrence. Thankfully, it has our name on it. However, our strongest concern is the introduction of competition via this simple requirement.

We recognize the intent of the nametags as beneficial and understandable. One way to bring the community together is to learn each other’s names and foster a familiar environment for all new students and faculty. But why the colored lanyards based on competition? We understand the desire to revive old traditions and celebrate Hockaday’s legacy but we feel we already have plenty of contemporary competition to go around.

Students have always competed in academics, as Hockaday is regarded as one of the most rigorous schools in the country. We measure ourselves up against other’s grades, AP test scores and class schedules. We try to be involved in more extra-curriculars, do more community service hours, take the most honors or AP classes and earn the highest grades at the same time. Not to mention college…

We have also always competed against each other in sports, striving to make a varsity team, have a starting position or be the captain.

Admittedly, this competition does have its benefits. A healthily competitive environment encourages us to work our hardest. We compare ourselves to others, and, in trying to keep up, hold ourselves to a higher standard. Friendly academic and athletic competition brings out the best in our study habits and motivates us.  But when competition permeates every aspect of our lives, embodied by the color of the lanyard we wear around our necks, it does more harm than good.

Girls compare who can eat the most, or the least. Who is the strongest, fastest or leanest and who sleeps the fewest hours each night. This is the negative side of competition that we must avoid.

Do not obsess over the fact that your friend got up at 5:30 a.m. for a hot yoga class, or spent triple the time on that homework assignment. Odds are she’s exaggerating.

Don’t be that girl who comes to class saying “Oh, I didn’t even open my book last night to study. I’m totally going to fail,” and then proceed to score a 96. In doing so, you are only making the environment even more competitive in ways that leads to stress and insecurity, rather than a drive to achieve more.

Competition will always be central to the Hockaday mindset as we naturally want to push ourselves to do more and to do it better. We hope girls will focus that sense of competition on achieving personal bests rather than outdoing their fellow classmates.

Rather than pitting green against white, why not implement measures to bring us together and build a stronger network of support? Reintroducing “families,”  the lunches and activities in groups that included girls from all grade levels or even multi-age tables in the Upper School could serve as platforms for exchanging advice and ‘been there, done that’ encouragement.

Yet the lanyard issue remains. We propose repurposing them as a vehicle for showing our true colors, beyond just green or white. Bedazzle, show Mavericks team pride, collect pieces of flair—let’s use our lanyard as a way to express ourselves. But you never know, that could turn into a competition too…

– Megan