There is always much debate in the world of education around the benefits or harm of competition.
For some the word alone will conjure vivid images from childhood. You, yourself, may remember the rush of adrenaline as you burst across the winning line on your school sports day or the glee in achieving full marks in your weekly spelling test. The resulting flush of euphoria will have, no doubt, given you a real spring in your step.
Equally, the reverse may be true. It may bring to mind representing your school at netball, in a team with a name too far down the alphabet to mention, being thoroughly thrashed, while the rain appears to pour directly over your head. Or, the mortification of being listed bottom of your year in the Summer Term exams, when the list of results hung humiliatingly just outside your classroom door.
In the past, the determination of educators to protect pupils was so strong that many schools removed competition, in all its forms. This sounds wonderful; as parents we are programmed to protect our children from harm, and the negativity around perceived failure can feel soul destroying.
But, are there consequences as a result of this desire to protect? The term snowflake is a derogatory description of the millennial generation. It is a metaphor used to label those with a lack of psychological resilience; individuals who struggle with emotional vulnerability. Whether you agree with this analogy or not, it is seeping into the common vernacular, via the media. These young men and women are criticised voraciously. But it is important that we recognise that they are still learning. We all are.
Schools are designed to prepare children for adult life. If we don’t allow them to experience competitive highs and lows, we are doing them a disservice. Here, they learn the need to win with grace and the resilience and perseverance to try again when they lose. For example, in the Year 3’s culinary battle, there were winners. This means, there were also those that did not win. The children’s emotional journey had highs and lows. Talking through this roller coaster of emotions allows the children to process their feelings, to accept them and then learn from them.