Based on a post I made in the thread, From Bill’s Blog: Merits Of Replacing Bronze Participation Medals, I thought it might be interesting to explore this concept a little more fully by creating a new thread rather than hijacking the participation medals thread.
This is the post I made. During the course of the season, there is a lot of discussion in CD, and also at different events, about the overuse of the term, Gracious Professionalism. I pay attention to the discussion and listen very carefully to examples that people use when talking about the overuse. Usually, I determine that the way the term is being used is distorted, such as using it as a judgment against someone. That is a whole nuther discussion that we can certainly find plenty of threads about in CD already. One concept that I think is not only overused but misused is, ‘we are all winners’, when it comes to FIRST teams. Initially, I didn’t have a problem with it but after participating in several FIRST events and watching the reactions of students to that statement, I have given it a lot of thought, or at least begun to.
Here are a couple of examples:
At an FLL tournament a couple of years ago, I volunteered as a hall monitor, helping to keep things orderly, quiet, and on time, moving the teams in and out of the judges rooms according to the schedule. That is an excellent position to volunteer for. You learn a lot about the demands placed on a team and the amount of work they put into competing for the different awards. You also have the opportunity to watch the reactions of the teams as they exit the judges room. If things went well, they are enthusiastic and excited, pleased with how it went. If things did not go as smoothly as they would have liked, the teams are usually quiet, tense, sometimes very emotional. That’s when mentors play a big role in keeping the team on track and intact. And that was when I first started noticing that the, ‘we’re all winners’ statement seemed weird when said to a group of young children who wanted to do their best but something went wrong and they were sad or emotional. The words rang hollow, given the stakes and the effort the team had put in. The mentors who said, hang in there, we still have the rest of the competition, or we did our best, let’s see how it goes - seemed to be more truthful and realistic and the teams responded better in the hallways to those words of encouragement.
Another example was an FTC tournament that I participated in as a judge this past year. The teams knew when they were prepared for their time with the judges. They also knew when they were not prepared. After talking with one such group, it was time for a quick break and in the hallway, I overheard a mentor saying, “It’s ok, we’re all winners anyway.”
Being a member of a FIRST team doesn’t offer us a sense of entitlement and it can create a slippery slide of a slope if we start bandying that statement around in foolish, casual, or silly ways. The teams and the individuals who make up the teams have an enormous amount of opportunities made available to them on the competition level, in their career paths and choices, and in their educational pursuits. Doors open and stay open but the individuals have to commit to walk through the doors they choose, in order to take full advantage of the opportunities offered - as does the team.
In my opinion, the wisdom, curiosity, and determination of the mentors makes a big difference on whether the concept, ‘we are all winners’, is valid, misused, distorted, or explained. Time should be taken to explain the thinking and philosophy that lends its truth to the statement just as time should be taken to share the vision and potential of the term, Gracious Professionalism. Through my participation in some FIRST events and seeing the impact of the wise use or the misuse of the statement, ‘we are all winners’, on young people, I don’t quite buy into it as a blanket statement for a FIRST team. Achievement carries much more weight. At the end of the day, a discussion regarding what was achieved and what was learned, explored, figured out - is much more real to young people if they haven’t won or garnered an award in the competition.