Kids come to school with ideas about winning and losing already formed. Within a week of arriving in the classroom, they have already staked out who is the best at something. Who is stronger. Smarter.
If you are the parent of a little one, you might have noticed this, too. Kids just seem to know these things.
As a first grade teacher, I liked to shake things up a bit with my students. To challenge their little worlds.
Get them to think differently.
A trend in education that started in the 1990s and is still going strong is something called cooperative learning.
The approach is simple: kids working together to achieve a common goal. It’s been proven that it leads to greater student achievement, an improvement in social skills and —perhaps more important of all—it prepares kids to work successfully in teams when they join the grownup world of work.
The M&M Game
Each year, as a kick-off to cooperative learning in our classroom, to get kids thinking about what it means to work and learn together, I invited them to play the M&M game. (With candy as the prize, I didn’t have to talk them into this.)
My only prop for this lesson was a jumbo-sized bag of M&Ms. First I placed my students in pairs, facing each other over a table.
“Each of you will put one elbow on the table and clasp your partner’s hand,” I said. “I will time you for one minute. Every time your partner’s whole arm goes flat on the table, you get an M&M.”
When I was sure they understood what their goal was, I started the clock.
The first time I did this, I was blown away by the results. Of 14 pairs of students, most kids didn’t get a single M&M. A couple of kids got one measly piece of candy each.
In the problem solving session afterward, each pair reported on their results. It was obvious that they had viewed the game as an arm wrestling match, which I hadn’t described it as at all.
Then I said, “How do you think you might have gotten more M&Ms?”
Most said some version of “Try harder” or “Use my muscles more.”
With more thinking, sometimes (but not always) someone would come up with, “Well, we could take turns. I get to push his arm down and he gets to push mine down and we just keep doing that.”
And when that happened, I saw the light bulbs in their little heads turn on.
They could get 50 or more M&Ms each, if they worked together!
We talked about how hard it was trying to beat the other person and how much easier it would be to help each other get what they wanted.
Why successful bloggers always win the M&M game
Once, after I left teaching to start my own business, I heard a quote from the late Zig Ziglar, author, speaker and salesman extraordinaire:
“You can have anything in life you want if you just help other people get what they want.”
And I thought, wow, that sounds like the M&M game.
In the rough and tumble world of business, it can be easy to fall into the trap those kids did. To see our success in terms of that one bag of M&Ms—and how many we could capture for ourselves.
But if we cooperated with others, if we shared our resources and strengths, might we get where we want to go faster?
What would that look like if we supported other bloggers, even those who might not quite be where we are yet? Could we all get more readers and subscribers if we banded together ? Recognized the good stuff other bloggers are doing? Invited them to write a guest post for us?
I am grateful for the bloggers and writers who took me under their wing and offered small words of encouragement, who shared the wealth when I was a rookie blogger. People like Danny Brown, Sonia Simone, Kare Anderson and others.
And I am sure that someone, sometime did the same thing for them when they were starting.
People successful in blogging—and life— have the mindset that we are not competitors, that there is enough to go around. That there are not only a few precious spots and they have to knock other people off the ladder to get one of them.
And above all, the single most shining trait that successful bloggers have in common is their generous spirit.
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