The Miracle of Petty Competition

No, this picture isn’t really relevant to the story

No, this picture isn’t really relevant to the story

The start of first grade for my oldest child has brought something new to my life. The Class Dojo app.

Briefly, Class Dojo is an app his teacher uses to track behavior. Students receive points for good behavior and can have points taken away for bad behavior. I guess it’s kind of like Reddit (upvotes and downvotes), but presumably there are fewer Nazis.

Best of all, the app updates in real time, so parents can track their children’s points throughout the day.

As you might imagine, this app has been a bit of a mixed blessing for me. On the one hand, it’s a bit much to have one more thing on my phone that I have to check a thousand times per day, but, on the other hand, THERE ARE POINTS SO IT’S AWESOME!

I checked the app religiously the first week or so of school. Eight points in one day? Woah, my kid is killing it like I knew he would.

I quickly realized, though, that there was one key feature missing: a leaderboard. Without a running tally of the entire classroom’s point totals, eight points in a day or three points in a day was basically meaningless. I understand providing such information would be inappropriate from a privacy and basic human decency perspective, but still, it would be nice to know which children had more points than mine so I could start developing imagined rivalries and pointing my seething resentment in the right direction.

It’s not that I’m an overly competitive person, it’s just that I like winning and hate losing more than anything else. My children? There are signs that despite their relative apathy toward sports, there is still hope that they will develop some form of maniacal competitiveness. Well, at least one of them.

Many nights at the dinner table, I will ask the boys how their day was at school. Usually they grunt, but sometimes they actually tell me something they did or learned. When this happens, I’m like, Okay, yes, you can tell me about what you learned at school today, but first, tell me about how many Class Dojo points everyone else in the class got.

Sadly, my first grader never seems to know; however, my four-year-old is always locked in.

“How many points did I get today?” he asks.

Since his class doesn’t have Class Dojo, I immediately respond by making up a number, preferably a number that is identical to the first grader’s point total.

So far, this seems to satisfy him. Although, that’s likely because no matter what number I say, he says he thinks he might have a hundred…or one million. Then, there is typically a brief back and forth with his brother about who had more points that ends with one or both of them crying. It warms my heart.

Of course, I do realize there’s a downside to competitiveness. I’ve given up on my fair share of activities because I didn’t see the point if I wasn’t the best at it. And to this day, I get roped into wasting time on things that don’t really matter just because there’s a competition attached to it. But, all of that is a story for another time. For now, I’m going to enjoy my Class Dojo buzz while it lasts. Plus, there’s no time to worry about bigger picture issues quite yet, I’m too busy perching on the edge of my seat waiting to see if this is the day my four-year-old finally surpasses the million point mark.

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