Couple days ago, I was watching a kindergarten and first grade student play two square. The kindergarten student won. I was kind of excited for that student because he was improving. So, I said "Good job!" to the kindergartner. Then, when the first grader got back in line, she was about 15 ft away, but I could still notice her solid stare at me. She yells toward me. "You're mean!" I pause the game. Walk back over to her.
Me: "What? Why did you call me mean?"
Her: "Because you only say negative things when I'm playing."
Me: "That's not true. I say 'good try.'"
the other kids: "Yea, he does always say that."
Anyway... her getting fussy with me still kind of got me thinking. After the fact, I can see why she got angry. By cheering for the kindergartner, I was basically saying that I'm proud that the first grader lost. So, by "negative things," that's probably what she meant.
For the days following that incident, I was a little hesitant to rejoin. It's kind of silly. What are the odds of an adult being afraid of a first grader. Crazy talk. I rejoined today and she was smiling at me. For this incident alone, I'm glad that elementary students seem to have a short memory span.
Today, I was trying not to say anything when kids were playing. I didn't want to seem like I was on one kid's side or another. Today, the kindergartner was playing again. After he lost and was right next to me in line, I told him that he was improving and gave him a five.
I already knew that a teacher is not supposed to favor any child more than another in the classroom, but I failed to make that connection with respect to sports competitions. If anything, sports competitions require more attention to praising all students equally (or at least in a way that it doesn't demean other students). Students are not necessarily in class for the sake of competition. Their main purpose is to learn. Whereas, the main purpose of a sports competition is to compete. So, each student will be focusing on whether they are doing better than their competing peers. Teachers supporting one student or another can intensify the students' significance of the competition.