I started off intending this to be a short post written on my mobile. As you will see, it turned into something a little more significant than that. I had even thought a tweet could have summarised the key learning! Just goes to show how blogging can support reflection and deepen learning.
Thanks to @creatortim (one of Create Development’s lead consultants), I have embedded this video that ties in nicely to this post. Good spot and thanks for the suggestion Tim.
Every Friday afternoon since September, I have taken a group of young leaders into local Infant and Primary schools to lead sport sessions based around our academy values of respect, friendship and excellence.
Over 40 students from KS3 & KS4 have had this opportunity, gaining between 6 and 12 hours leadership experience each.
Toward the end of Term 4, I received a call saying that the weather is going to be bad, so don’t come over, unless you are willing to lead a classroom based lesson. Having always been one for taking on a challenge, I decided to go for it.
Four hours later, I found myself in a classroom with 31 Year 5 students and 14 of my own leaders.
With the windows misting up, I embarked on my mission to provide a valuable learning experience for everyone in the room.
I used ideas from Create Development’s learn to compete resource. My aim was to give every student as many experiences of winning and losing in increasingly competitive circumstances and take on different roles within those situations. We used rock, paper, scissors as the activity – an activity that is largely based on luck, which allows all students equal chance of success and also appropriate for allowing a high volum of games to be played.
We split the classroom into four zones (which I later named). If a pupil won a best of three game match, they moved into the next zone along, find a new opponent, shake hands and play again. Winners move to next zone, losers back to previous zone.
The focus was on playing lots of games against different people, winning lots, losing lots and learning how conduct themselves in a respectful manner (win or lose). At first, my leaders supervised each zone, having been instructed to allow the Year 5 children space to organise and self regulate their own matches. This reflects the change in my own ethos, whereby I spend far less of my time instructing, allowing students to take much more of an active role in their development.
Later, my leaders played against the Year 5’s. A great opportunity for my leaders to model the values of being a good competitor (win or lose) and also for the Year 5’s to experience competing against someone four years senior to them.
Interestingly, as soon as I named the zones (premier league, championship, league 1, league 2), the competitors automatically assumed it was best to be in the premier league and we had a situation where 75% of the group were in the top two zones, with about half the group in the premier league itself. By the law of averages, there should have been an equal distribution among all the zones.
This told me a few things about young people and competition. Firstly, often it is more important to ‘win’ in order to look good and feel better about yourself, even if it means being dishonest to yourself and to your competitors. It also confirms my belief that children need to be educated about how to compete and as an educator, not just expect them to be able to compete properly with no guidance on how to. This differs from the current Government’s approach of thinking that by just putting children in more competitive team environments, it will lead to them being better competitors (as they cheat their way to a hollow ‘win at all costs’ victory, as opposed to aiming to be the best you can be and in doing so increase ones chances of success).
I mentioned at the top of this post about Create Development’s competition spectrum (learn to compete, compete to learn #L2C). Following this resource, the first level of competition is to learn how to set personal bests and then develop the personal skills (including confidence and resilience) in order to try and beat that best. Essentially competing against yourself. Once an ethos of being honest with oneself and being motivated to be the best one can be, a child is well prepared to compete against others.
The honesty and drive to be the best has to be maintained at every stage. If not, the competitor must return to competing against themselves, to rebuild the fundamental skills of competing, before then returning to competing against others. The Year 5’s working their way to the premier league, clearly were not ready to compete against others fairly.
Towards the end of the lesson, each zone played a knock-out competition to establish a zone champion. Once defeated, a pupil had to support the person they lost to and anyone that beat them in subsequent rounds. This ensured that everyone stayed involved in the competition in some way. It appeared to me that each of the zone champions were not used to being a winner in sport competitions. Certainly not the children to be first picked if the children pick their own teams (does anyone actually still do that?).
As each zone got behind their champion, they competed in two semi finals (obviously!). I asked the losing zone finalist to nominate two pupils to be coach/motivator to their champion, two to make up a song/chant, 2two to think up a dance/haka for the zone to perform before the best of five games match, and finally, a crucial role… someone to support the zone champion if they lost.
Despite being out of the competition as a competitor, every pupil was still involved in some way. Those less sporty, all of a sudden felt like they were the most important people in the room with crucial roles to play.
We all know what it is like to watch your national team lose in a major competition. It’s the same with any other team you emotionally invest in. By structuring the competition in the way that I did, it gave everyone a reason to care about their team and the individuals within it. Losing isn’t a comfortable experience, but one we must all learn to deal with. Despite it not being themselves who lose, experiencing defeat as a supporter or squad member can still be valuable experience.
The final saw two Year 5’s playing in a best of seven game match, with the rest of the class split supporting their respective champions. The atmosphere was electric. Every child engaged. A magic moment happened at the end of the match, during the scenes of celebration, as the losing finalist struggled through the crowds who were swamping the winner, in order to shake their hand and say well done.
There was time for on last competition… A best of nine game match with the Year 5 champion, versus one of my leaders. The Year 5’s reigned supreme and my Year 9’s perfectly modelled the values of grace and dignity in defeat. You couldn’t have written a better ending.
With the class going wild, late on a Friday afternoon, we said our goodbyes and left the poor teacher with a class full of highly charged, ecstatic children. Oops, sorry about that.
That’s a lot of learning for just one hour of wet play.