One of my former English-teaching jobs involved working with small children. They were very little (most under the age of five) so the job primarily consisted of playing games and singing songs in English. Like any job there were good and bad things about it. The kids were mostly very sweet and cute. However, I had a colleague who drove me nuts. We used to play these little games with the kids and naturally there would be one winner, which is the point of playing any game, right?
Despite this universal truth, she would always smile at them and say, “That’s okay. Everyone’s a winner!” This always bothered me because there was in fact only one winner. He won because he was the best. Saying that everyone’s a winner totally diminishes the achievement of the kid who actually won the game. It’s unrealistic, dishonest and unfair, and it sets kids up for disappointment later on in life.
It used to be when a child did poorly in school her parents would go straight to her and say, “These grades are terrible!” Nowadays, when a child does poorly in school her parents go straight to her teacher and say, “These grades are terrible!”
Not that there aren’t any bad teachers. Of course there are, just as there are bad examples from every profession. However, I wonder if it ever occurred to the parents that maybe their kid is just a bad student. I know a thing or two about being a bad student because I used to be one. Then again, I had very low self-esteem, so when I got bad grades I assumed it was because I (and not my teacher) was useless. No amount of attempted bribery or bolstering of my nonexistent self-esteem was going to improve my performance in school.
Then one day I realized that I’d better get off my ass and get some decent grades, so that’s what I did. At first I did it mainly to keep my parents from yelling at me, but after a while I figured out that I was actually a good student and I did it for me.
While I strongly believe in encouraging young people to do the best they can, I also believe that it’s ultimately up to them. They choose whether to do well or bad in school, and while we can encourage or even intimidate, their performance in school is their responsibility. The young people of today aren’t being taught self-reliance and accountability. Many of them are little narcissists who have been led to believe they are “special” and therefore entitled to “the best.”
However, we seem to have forgotten to tell them about having to work really hard in order to get it, about taking charge of their own lives, about having to get it themselves if they really want it, and about them not being entitled to anything.
Remember that if everyone is a winner that means that everyone is also a loser.