Children Participate, they don’t Win and they don’t Lose

When I was at School, we won or we lost. Participation was a giving, need to be in it to win it. You would be right in assuming that I didn’t always win and I didn’t get picked for the School football team. I admit not being picked for the team caused new feelings at the time, but I handled it just fine and probably learned to deal with rejection in a good way.

Now that I’m a father I can talk about this subject and how things have changed. I strongly believe they have and I blog this post without researching it. I’m sure I remember news reports on the subject but it’s all very vague. Maybe child psychologists could make a good case for removing rewards for the few so the many don’t feel…well feelings!

The Reading Award

My interest in how Schools reward begun when my daughter received a reading award known as the “Jessie Taylor Reading Award” while at Dysart Primary in Fife. She was the only pupil who received it because it was only issued once per year. Now my daughter, to this day, is reading 2 years ahead of her age. So her achievement back then was well noted and gladly rewarded because we worked hard.

As you can see we then did what modern people do, never mind the fact that I am a Web Developer or a father showing his child how to take everything to the next level. We did what we’re all doing and that is sharing. That is the video I created with my daughter and I saw the whole process as an opportunity to show her why the WWW exists. I showed her how we can create our own positive media and that many tools exist to make videos like this.

No More Reading Awards

The publishing of this video might have had an unintentional effect. I can’t be sure but my daughter’s award was the last giving. Suddenly teachers felt they couldn’t choose a pupil to give it to. That the choice was too difficult and left other children out.

I think it’s very sad. I think it’s sad because those adults who are meant to help children prepare for what can be a difficult and challenging world. Stopped a tradition because it was challenging and it might hurt someone’s feelings. The idea that teachers back-out of situations that might be difficult for them and children doesn’t make sense to me. I expect professionals charged with teaching to challenge a child’s emotions and feelings. If that means awarding a single child so be it. Just remind the rest that they can achieve other rewards and there is always next time!

Did the video and sharing the video cause upset? I can’t say for sure but I got the feeling it might have based on attitudes towards it. Would you feel angry if your child didn’t receive the award or would you be happy for the child who did?

My opinion is simple. Create more awards for more subjects and efforts. We shouldn’t ever remove the opportunity to give something to a child that will encourage them to maintain their effort. Especially something they can be proud of for years.

Participation and Gold Stars

Another thing I’m not sure about is if the School even stopped to consider the culture they were created or becoming a part of or promoting. Maybe the School, maybe all British Primary Schools, are increasing a culture of focusing on participation and giving a gold star for doing that alone. That is the impression I get from media. That we’re creating a culture where nobody loses, but then nobody is a winner either, they just did well!

Do you think that is where we are heading in our Schools?

At what point does a young person become challenged by the fact that one day their peers might experience greater success. When do we stir up negative feelings so that they may learn to cope with them before adulthood? They grow up quickly and there seems to be an increasing trend to shelter them from every emotion that isn’t a happy one. It could create a generation of adults who struggle with failure.

Silver stars should always be an option!




2 responses to “Children Participate, they don’t Win and they don’t Lose”

  1. At the risk of sounding pedantic and like I missed the point, I will tell you the biggest flaw in your theory: it is based on a one-size-fits-all learning environment.

    Competition is exactly what will motivate some people. Others will only be more discouraged. I love pushing myself, though it is considerably less rewarding when I feel like I am doing it for some arbitrary/silly reason like competing with a peer.

    But “gamification” works and really drives some people to advance. Neutering every chance to excel makes things boring, and thats coming from someone that personally finds competition pretty boring. I also ran a competition a few months ago to encourage some people to try something theyve never tried before or seriously considered. Note they volunteered: I had no other means to compel them to do it.

    Why not continue use competition for some students, when it drives them? Let everyone else participate in something else. If we are going to speak broadly, I mean. Competition doesnt have to be the only way to participate, but it doesnt have to be taken away entirely. Just because a hammer isnt the right tool for everything, doesnt mean you have to throw it away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That makes sense to me and thank you for the first comment on this blog!

      I wonder how children feel when they do not achieve the ultimate reward when part of a process that they choose to be part of compared to one they are forced to be part of.

      I like the idea of pupils being able to opt-in and would love to see it being applied to a range of subjects, skills, and sports for the purpose of competition. Both in-class and School-wide. It wouldn’t mean they escape from taking part as per the curriculum but it would mean they can be excused from larger challenges and pressure.

      That would be an interesting experiment.

      Liked by 1 person

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