This year my class seems to have a competitive streak. It’s not all of the students, of course, but enough of them to significantly impact the community. It’s a fine line that I walk between motivating kids and teaching them that competition can really alienate students in our community and cause problems in friendships. So when I found an opportunity to put their competitive streak to good use I was thrilled.
The crisp winter air rushed through the playground yesterday morning. Students huddled together, pulling hats down over their ears. I hurried to pick them up, grabbing my sweater close and wishing that I had remembered my jacket. The moment they saw me they exploded with excitement. “Mrs. Muhtaris, Mrs. Muhtaris look!” they shouted. Over half the class held up bags triumphantly. Grocery bags, target bags, backpacks. Fancy bags, cheap bags. Bags and bags and bags filled with food for the food drive.
“I went shopping yesterday!”
“I spent my allowance this week on food.”
“I clipped the coupons like you said and found great deals!”
“I’m bringing mine tomorrow.”
Every year the student council runs a food drive for the local food pantry. This year they announced that the class who donated the most would win an after school trip to the food pantry to deliver all of the food and then have a hot chocolate party. I tasked my kids with putting their competitive streak to good use. “Let’s collect the most food of any class!”
They took me seriously.
I don’t know if they will win their hot chocolate party. But I do know that every morning when they see what they accomplished as a group, when they see the cans stacked in neat row, the boxes of pasta and cereal organized with care there is a sense of pride. They are no longer competing with each other. They are competing together, as a team, as a community, and they’ve already won something bigger than a prize.