Winning by Losing

I read a great piece in the New York Times a few weeks back by Ashley Merryman, co-author of the book Nurtureshock with Po Bronson. It was titled, Losing is Good for You. It was a well timed read after having recently been part of two very charged little league softball and baseball games.

One game featured a win-at-all-cost softball coach (not ours) who taught his girls to run on every dropped, overthrown or underthrown ball. The philosophy was, “If the ball does not get back to the pitcher, RUN!” In full disclosure, the rules state this is allowable. Also in full disclosure, I have never seen a team actually develop a base running philosophy around this. These are 4th and 5th grade girls who are still learning the game. Shouldn’t that be the focus. Our girls handled it well. Us dad’s were less than awed by this approach. Winning at any cost is not the spirit of little league. Winning or losing without learning has little to no value (The dad in me was excited that our girls won the game, despite the efforts of the opposing coach. Does that make me a bad person? Please don’t answer that).

On a recent Sunday, our 3rd grade boys baseball team was in a battle of a game with another team. Our team had not lost a game in almost two years. While this is nice and the boys love that, many of our parents were secretly looking for a loss so the boys would have to learn to deal with that. As the coach of the team I could not agree more. There are great lessons in learning from a loss. To quote the great Herm Edwards, “We play to win the game”, but some humble pie is good for you, especially in 3rd grade.

We were losing and you could see the mood on the bench was one of sadness. The boys had not lost a game yet and it was very close to happening. My son was sulking on the bench in between innings. “Why the long face, buddy?” I asked. “We are losing'” was the response. That set me off. While I cannot remember my exact words, I did say something to the effect that “I don’t care if we lose buddy…they are playing better than us right now. They deserve to win. If we want to win we have to play better than the other team.” I am still not sure if I said the right thing or not but I know the everyone-gets-a-trophy perspective plays a big part of that mindset in kids (mine included). Teaching kids to give their best effort and accept the results is easier said than done.

Well, the final inning came and we lost our first game in two years. There were tears as we ended the season, but a great season it was. I was proud of the group for their growth this year. The loss, however, is not a loss. There is more learning in a loss than a win.That is the silver lining in this. That is a growth mindset.

Two games on a Sunday. Two sets of circumstances. One great lesson, with two subtopics. Learning is winning! Win at all costs does have a cost (and not a good one in my opinion). Losing will happen, but it teaches you more than winning. “Dad, if we made a few more plays yesterday we might have been able to win.” That was music to my ears.

Playing Games

When shaking the hands of the upper school students at the back door each day I will often ask them all a question to get their thoughts on a topic. A few weeks back I asked all the 6th-8th graders what the liked best about their Ipads. The most common answer was that it helped them stay organized. It is good feedback and it is very true (speaking from personal experience).

One of the biggest comments I have heard about the downside of the Ipads was they could be used to play too many games. Well, it helps that we can manage the apps, but a recent trip to San Francisco and the Co.lab at Zynga has helped me see some great value in playing games. Zynga is famous for games like Words With Friends and Farmville. If there is a company that knows games, its Zynga. The cool piece is they have established this Co.Lab with several educational app developers to promote more educational gaming.

wpid-20131111_174442.jpgIt was amazing being part of a process that allowed me to talk with the owners of companies that are developing educational games aimed at advancing learning. These are not games that involve shooting or sports. These are games that support students with learning differences and apply math skills to owning a pizza shop, among other things. Edmodo was there too and we have several teachers using the platform to support classroom instruction. Not all games are bad. As the 5th graders in my business school class are about to find out, the lemonade stand game app I have (and now the ability to beta test Motion Math’s Pizza Shop app) is a game that helps them realize what they need to be successful running a business. Plus it reinforces and teaches them math and accounting skills. So, playing some games can be a good thing.


Thanks to the folks at Bright Bytes for putting on such an amazing summit and connecting us with amazing resources. Game on!

Perspective in a Fast World

I know the school year is going fast when I see Christmas Bazaar signs up already.It’s only November 1st. All Saint’s Day it is and Fr. DaSilva gave a great homily today. “Be yourself and you are a saint.” Simple and powerful. The message provides great perspective. My take is anyone can be a saint, even you. While our saints should be celebrated and held up high, the message is they are among us. It was great to see the kids “get it” today.

Along the lines of perspective, I recently came back from a conference. It is always nice to get together with colleagues and share thoughts and ideas. The main presenters at the conference were researchers from Harvard University’s Project Zero initiative. Project Zero sponsors independent research that examines the learning process in children and adults. I always try to come home from a conference with at least one piece that resonates with me back at school.

Slowing things down to examine perspective is the pearl that stuck with me. As time seems to go faster and faster (maybe it is just me, or the fact that my daughter is turning 10 already), it is so important for us to try and slow things down a bit and gain perspective. In one of the sessions a researcher shared her story about researching global competency. She highlighted a great Ted Talk by Chimamanda Adichie. Click on the link to watch and hear her message about perspective.

As I sat and listened at the conference I felt proud of the work we are doing in this area. Our partnership with Hotcourses Primary School and the Nyumbani Community in Kenya are tremendous relationships. The kids are sharing their culture with one another, and in turn, are widening each others perspective. Hopefully this helps limit the “single story” as Adichie describes. Our world is just too flat for this to continue. A mass on All Saints Day and a partnership thousands of miles away. These are just two small (yet big) examples of how we are helping our kids gain perspective. Powerful experiences that will no doubt help significantly shape the way our kids view the world.