Some background first:
So what happens to the red tickets? There is a wooden box in the office that is festooned with red tickets. Kids drop by the office all week to put their red tickets in the box. Part of what makes Fridays fun is that I do a short "radio program" over the intercom during homeroom. I begin with my hearty, "Welcome to Friday" greeting and then proceed to salute the efforts of whatever teams played this week or announce the winners of the walk and roll to school poster contest or play up the upcoming dance. Finally I announce the red ticket prize winners for the week. Typically, I have secured 10 or 12 prizes (for example, Baskin Robbins or Round Table Pizza gift certificates - donated by the companies - or perhaps some treat of the season - chocolate Valentine hearts last Friday) and I pull the corresponding number of tickets. I do spread them out and try to get a balance of winners across grade levels. Between you and me, I also won't allow a kid to win repeatedly when others have not won (yes, I occasionally manipulate the drawing but all for good cause). I pick the tickets before air time so as to have the chance to manipulate if necessary and to keep the radio program going smoothly. Trust me, I am good at playing up the fake suspense. It's also fun because often kids will include a "shout-out" to a teacher, friend, or celebrity and I am happy to read those over the intercom. It's all about the levity.
So what's the "Really, People?" title all about? One of the three disgruntled parents with whom I dealt on Friday has a second grade son and a preschooler. She came to the office after homeroom on Friday to protest the red ticket drawing. She felt that a drawing like that was harmful to kids. Her concern was that the ten or twelve winners were exulted and the remaining 480 or so kids were losers. She wanted there to be a prize for every student or no prizes at all. Of course, I listened to her complaint and thanked her for her feedback. As you might expect, I pointed out that life has times when you don't get what you want and the red ticket drawing could also be seen as a chance to practice graceful "losing". She would have nothing to do with that. In fact, she strongly reiterated her concern that children are damaged when they can't be winners. She walked out of the office in a bit of a huff.
I wished she could have been open to more conversation and, perhaps, at a different time she might be. What I wanted to say was, "Lighten up." I know she is being a mama bear protecting her cub but what if, instead of consoling him when he didn't win and enhancing his disappointment, she chose to say to him, "Oh, kiddo, it's just a silly little game JT plays. Let's put another ticket in next week and see what happens." What if, instead of feeding his disappointment, she gave him some coping skills. Let's face it. Life is going to give him plenty of opportunities to cope with not getting what he wants. Rather than shelter him from something as insignificant as a weekly drawing for a candy heart, maybe she could model ways to deal with disappointment.
From where I sit the red ticket drawings furnish many positive moments. They add a bit of fun to Fridays. They provide occasions for positive feedback. They build connections between kids and adults on campus. They make people smile (both donor and recipient). They give kids a chance to come into the office and say hi to me and/or our principal.
Here's the thing. I've had my go at parenting but I am interested in what my blogging peeps say about this practice. Are red ticket drawings damaging for kids or not damaging for kids? What do you think?
**** PS. I kid you not. I thought about this topic BEFORE I saw this morning's Doonesbury comic strip. Check it out!