18 Aug

Change of pace with this interesting, thought-provoking HuffPost article. I am in the middle of half a dozen blogs about teaching reading. This caught my ‘eye’ on Facebook.

I think it will generate a great discussion with your friends, family and colleagues. Be sure to ask your own kids what they think about it, too!

If you saw the movies Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers you undoubtedly recall the scene where Gaylord’s parents made a giant shrine of his participation ribbons and awards. He was not happy it was shared with his bride-to-be and her parents, but we all laughed and laughed, as everyone can relate.

The article is about an NFL star, linebacker James Harrison who took away his two sons’ participation trophies. As a member of the Pittsburg Steelers, Mr. Harrison is an athlete, champion and a winner. However, he opens up an interesting conversation for us with his actions, as a sports hero and a parent. I am not judging, as he makes a valid point about earning awards and rewards.

In fact, James Harrison came up the hard way, super stardom eluded him and he worked extremely hard, overcoming many obstacles to be a champion athlete. I admire that drive.

As our school year starts, there are ramifications for classrooms and whole schools regarding awards assemblies, grades and competition of many sorts. School culture determines what values are of most importance and not everyone always agrees. I don’t believe in buy in.

But I do believe in civil conversation and ultimately doing what’s best for children. My kids were champion swimmers, and all-around athletes in many sports. (Not my genes). Not all of our children excelled at the same things, and my husband and I always celebrated their successes whether on the field, ski slope, pool or classroom.

One of our four received participation ribbons and trophies although she was on winning sports teams. We thought it was just fine. She was there at all the practices, games, participated just the same and worked really hard, regardless of how the rest of the team was doing. It was her personal best. She earned her awards and was proud to be part of the group.

One of my step-kids is a champion climber. She never needed a participation trophy or ribbon. One of our kids is an engineer but was never as athletic.

We attended countless practices, games, meets regardless of win or loss. William also coached several sports he was not as expert with, because someone had to do it for the kids. In those experiences he modeled good values and persistence which I think are more important in life than always winning.

It was all about the games, learning about teamwork, being a good sport and sticking it out. The scores really didn’t matter. And for those kids who were top athletes and got the accolades, super, but at least the other kids were recognized and felt pretty great about themselves. Talk about a “growth mindset”.

Read the article and let me know what you think. I truly admire Mr. Harrison for his beliefs that his kids have to earn respect and be true champions to earn recognition. But I don’t agree that his kids needed to lose awards. Just my opinion.

Not every child is a super star athlete, but there will undoubtedly be a spectrum of excellence in life. That’s what it’s all about. By giving our kiddos lots of opportunities in a variety of areas, something always stands out.

My life work is all about reading. I like to think I was a champion as a parent, principal and other things I did in my life. At least, I gave it my ‘all’. My book Reading Champs is about anyone coaching someone else, adult or student to be a champion reader.

For me, teaching the skills necessary for academic and life success starts with our modeling. And that is the question I am posing. What are our values we impart as parents and caregivers? Is winning all that matters? Does participation and making a solid effort count?

I question whether taking back children’s awards is the best way to model good sportsmanship. I would have applauded them for participating whether the team won or not. What does a child have to do to earn an award?

What do you think? I would love to hear from you about this. Differing opinions are good. I am open to discussion. Perhaps I’m wrong. I surely hope so.

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

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