Day 164 (of 185) My view on competing, ribbons, winning & losing…. aka what would @chriswejr do?
Today marked the start of our “competitionS” season….
and I think back to what @ChrisWejr would do: http://chriswejr.com/strength-based-education/thoughts-on-awards-ceremonies/ We’ve had chats on a variety of social media formats – twitter, voxer, face-to-face which have led to a lot of sighs of relief to know that there are other educators that have the same (or at least similar!) views towards competitions….and awards (which so often are given without student-candidates being aware of of what the criteria is or was….and many times the selection team not knowing or acknowledging the criteria….) and as I have asked repeatedly to our PAC and Staff throughout the year for our “awards assembly” at the end of June….what are the criteria for the trophies that have been given since the school was first opened, and do the students know what they are…..does anyone know what they are? If we have criteria, then it’s okay to have ties; if learners want to aim for something, they know why they are doing it; and it keeps our partners focused that while the award may be nice, it’s more important about what was being done/learned/completed along the way. And I’m looking forward to seeing who steps up to hand those awards to the deserving students…..!
So….my evolution as a parent and educator has been to emphasize the fun of the event rather than focusing on who won and who came in last <— both of which have long term memory implications….in some cases very long term memories…. So I differentiate “competitions” into those where there are choice (student, not parent) and where there is not (whole school/class – or even parent/guardian has decided ‘for’ the student). When kids choose competition (soccer, hockey, spelling bees, colouring contests) they know that there are going to be “winners” (usually singular) and ‘the rest’. But it is a choice to take part.
For example: we had our first round of Public Speaking – for which we can submit two per grade to go on to a bigger “district” meeting. I’m also planning and getting ready for our District K-7 Track & Field Day….with ribbons….and one trophy (it used to be more…..) and an upcoming “Fun Day” with ribbons….from first to twelfth (12 teams doing ridiculously fun events – and 12th gets the coolest colour – and as the president of our PAC said: yes, we have winners and losers but really everybody gets something). I empathize with the people who are too worried about “everybody wins” mindsets, but sometimes everybody should win something…
And “something” matters – especially when there is a lack of choice. When we ‘force’ kids into competitions, everybody should get something. When there is choice, I am okay with a gradual increase in competition. When playing sports with younger students, everybody plays and we focus on fun (which worked well since my last time coaching soccer for kids under 10 and almost all of that team is now on the more competitive U12 Development Team) and because for many it’s a “first time” event, it shouldn’t be competitive, and I like it when everybody takes home a medal to show that they took a chance and tried something new….or were told they were going to try something new….;-) As the kids get older and choices have to be made (can senior basketball fit with a full academic load?) then I’m okay with the scores counting….and some that know me will know that if you want me to be competitive….I can be competitive…..but not always (it’s not always pretty if I get too focused on the win 😉 But it should be about doing something that you love to do – I got involved in a variety of sports (playing but mostly coaching) to have fun – the fact that we won at times was a very nice bonus.
But really I see “competitions” and award assemblies and ribbon-events as a place and opportunity for a gradual, guided release of responsibility. Every young child loves to have a ribbon – even if it doesn’t mean what they think it means. The concept of “winning and losing” comes all too well and often to many – especially the ones that value winning too much and those that pre-determine that they’re just there to come in last. If we can build a guided model where “everybody plays so everybody gets something” towards a “best = one” model (provincial champions, governor-general award winner, etc) with a range of opportunities along the way…..I think that will help everyone decide when they want to be competitive and when it is appropriate that everybody “gets a ribbon”.