Sunday, August 01, 2010

CMK - Still More Deborah Meier and Alfie Kohn

As a first grade teacher (and the mother of a six year old) I am well aware of how strong the need to be first is in children of that age. Others have noticed it as well.

I think six year olds are not the only ones with this urge however. As a country we are constantly trying to be first in any positive comparison.

At CMK Alfie Kohn pointed out that anytime we want to be first we are hoping that others will do poorly. Hearing him say it felt like a slap in the face. As with many things Kohn says it seems so obvious now.

We are connected in so many ways to our allies, enemies, and everyone else that hoping they do poorly not only reflects badly on us but may also hurt us in the long run.

I spend a lot of time every year working toward a community of learners who work together, support each other, and learn alongside each other. It seems a worthy goal for everyone, not just first graders.

1 comment:

The Science Goddess said...

Do you think that this is also because we adults tend to make an association between "first" and "best"? Sometimes, first is just first---like when people who get in line for iPhones or movie premieres or Black Friday sales (or for recess).

Nearly all the research on student motivation I've seen has concluded that children don't solidify an orientation toward goal-oriented learning (e.g. for grades) or more intrinsic reasons (e.g. learning for the sake of learning) until 4th or 5th grade.

This makes me wonder if your first graders are learning a different lesson in wanting to be first---which is "I can't always be first...and it's okay."

As adults, we don't have much day-to-day competition. But that doesn't mean that we always get our way, either. Is this because of those lessons in first grade where we learned to take turns, and that good and bad things are part of life---and the sun will still come up tomorrow, either way? We know that just because we aren't first in line to get a new phone doesn't mean we won't ever get one. We had the opportunity to play with the idea of what it means to be "first."