Everybody Gets a Trophy

My venting today has little to do with certain people and more to do with the continuing trend to protect everyone from themselves. It’s very irritating.
I remember, with great affection, the days of Track and Field with my fifth graders. The morning would start off with a lot of excitement. The class would go around to a lot of stations that were set up to provide different challenges. There would be the football throw, the ball bounce, the rope climb, the stilt walk, etc. Somebody would do really well and we’d cheer them on. Other kids would just suck at it, and we’d cheer them on too!

There were a number of years where the unfortunate combination of “great athlete” and “great obnoxious pain in the ass” were the same kid. During the recess time, we’d all play together and I’d have to occasionally say, “Hey, Robnoxious, chill!” and explain how we are supposed to be good sports. Recess time eventually eroded away into an additional PE time called Structured Teacher-led Activities because our obese children were too sedate and we couldn’t have happy sedate children.

So, we spend a year focused on making all kids love each other, play together, and help the non-athletic kids realize that they now see that they aren’t as good as the gifted Robs not only in PE, but also during recess.  When do the Robs get to shine?  Track and Field!

We eventually had the event, (at the end of the year after all testing was done) the Robs and kids that were also good at sports would have their chance to shine. We would yell and scream and cheer our classmates on because our class was a community. When we did that, there was often just as much cheering for the asthmatic, 2-toed, kid with 1 rib and the kid would get winded running across the room. They didn’t want to be booed and usually would hear some of my kids yelling their name just as loud as the first place finisher.

I would go hoarse by the end of the day cheering my kids on. My kids had fun screaming and I remember a few times when a small group on the sidelines would run out and joyfully mob the kid who finished last, because the kid did his best and because they were part of our family. It was fun and most kids, despite their ability level, enjoyed it.

Why the look back? Our PE teachers were told that there would be NO competitive activities this year. Kids can’t get ribbons for winning a race. There were soccer ‘clinics’, tennis activities, calisthenic exercises, but no events where someone could do better than someone else. To be fair, there was one ‘race’ at the end of the day, but there could be no ribbon winners.

Seriously! We are taking the thrill of competition away from kids so that nobody can get their feelings hurt?? What about the wall near the library of kids who out-read the other kids. They have their pictures up, big ceremonies each month during morning assembly, a special lunch, and more. But what about the kids who can’t read well? Couldn’t this make them feel bad? How is that different from race-winners?  Heck, the Honor Roll ribbons are now just “Honor Roll” and not A and A/B ribbons. We can’t distinguish because it hurts someone’s feelings.

What the hell are we teaching our kids in this over-protective, hyper-enabling, every kid gets a trophy world?? Every kid has a talent. It’s not our job to make some kid not be hurt because Robnoxious can run circles around him. It’s our job to make students be successful learners who value themselves and find their self-worth. Hiding from possible pain doesn’t build self-confidence. Give us our schools back. Let teachers develop students intellectually, physically, and emotionally without having every corner in school wrapped in soft foam and every kid expected to be good at everything.
1 Response
  1. Red Says:

    AMEN!!! You are so right and I will add one point that you didn't say but I am sure you thought- just because there are kids that are great athletes doesn't mean that the kids who aren't great athletes are no good at anything else. Everyone has their own special talent. I know that the kids who usually don't get cheered on or are the last to be picked for a team get tired of it but there IS something special inside them, just waiting to make its way to the surface to shine and bring that child their own accolades.
    When it finally happens- what a feeling!!

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