Everyone’s a winner, baby…

So, according to Hot Chocolate, everyone’s a winner baby. Apparently, it’s no lie. But that’s the thing…. everyone doesn’t win all the time.

It strikes me as strange, in a country obsessed with sport where someone always wins and someone doesn’t win, we aren’t better at not winning. I play a game in my music classes that is a variation of musical statues. Everyone gets a tambourine. When the music plays, everyone walks around and hits their tambourine (hopefully to the beat of the music – but this doesn’t always happen. It’s also a good chance for me to see what children do this instinctively – but that’s a different story). When the music stops, they must freeze, balance their tambourine on their head, and put their arms out like an aeroplane. If the tambourine falls off their head, the child is out. It’s an excellent self-policing game, really, and everyone likes it. I use it as a hey-we’ve-all-just-had-a-pretty-demanding-music-lesson-and-here’s-something-a-bit-fun-now type of ending to a music lesson.

I played this in three different classes last week. In every class I had at least one tantrum when someone got out, sometimes more. (It was exhausting. I felt like I was herding cats at one point.) Lots of sad faces. One child told me that I was the WORST TEACHER EVER. Now, I know everyone likes to win something. But this was pretty interesting. It got me thinking…..

I was pulled up once when I was training teachers, because I advocated saying ‘no’ when a child got something wrong. Let me clarify – this was quickly followed by a ‘yes’ when the mistake was corrected. You can’t say ‘no’, I was told. It wasn’t ‘positive learning’, or some edurubbishtoopcspeak. Why can’t we say ‘no’ to children? They will get ‘no’ in the rest of their lives. I am often told ‘no’. They will have this said to them too. They will lose in things. Everyone isn’t always a winner, despite what we are told in disco songs. Shouldn’t we be able to deal with no, or losing in a game? And shouldn’t we be teaching children how to do this too?

I’m happy to wear the ‘worst teacher ever‘ hat for a bit. My little friend was genuinely devastated. But do the children I see get praised too much all the time? All the ‘high five’s and ‘great job’s may be doing more damage than we think.