Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, is a way of thinking best described by the phrase, "if I can't have it, neither can you." The metaphor refers to a bucket or pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead they grab at each other in a useless "king of the hill" competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to negate or diminish the importance of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress. Wikipedia
The topic of educators exhibiting "crabs in a bucket" syndrome was raised at a meeting the other day. Do teachers keep other teachers from shining out of "envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings" - or, I would add, the culture of a building, district, or profession?
Personally, I have rarely experienced this, but perhaps it is because the only teachers I get to know are the ones who don't allow the other teachers to keep them from achieving. These are the true district leaders - those who go above and beyond by directing activities with students or other staff members outside the classroom; those who serve on district leadership committees (in technology, especially); those who are unafraid to help their building administrators set goals, plan initiatives, and face criticism for wanting to move others outside their comfort zones. Those willing to speak to me, to speak out, on behalf of their students and fellow teachers. The crabs at the bottom of the bucket, I guess I just don't see very often since they are, well, at the bottom of the bucket, invisible.
Outside the district I also encounter very little crab mentality, not because it doesn't exist, but because those with whom I interact - the bloggers, the tweeters, the article writers, the conference speakers, the professional association leaders - are those who will not be held down. These are practitioners of their crafts - classroom teachers, librarians, building and district administrators, technologists - who share and provoke and envision and challenge me. And provide me the courage to escape my own bucket now and then.
I am very happy to report that I have seen new teacher-leaders informally rise in our district. We have brave souls who are creating the kinds of help sheets and guides for our new student information system that the company that produces the code itself cannot or will not provide - those written from the POV of the classroom teacher IN OUR DISTRICT. Similar initiatives are starting for our learning management system, developing a teacher-led support team to improve the ability for all classroom teachers to use the LMS well.
Schools can no longer afford, if they ever could, the crab mentality among staff members. Perhaps technology intitiatives' real worth lies not in the power of the technology, the power of bringing people together to use the technology well.