I play ultimate frisbee with a bunch of people every week. Most of the people are between the ages of 20 and 65, and we play pretty hard: sprinting, leaping, and diving for two to three hours, three times a week.
Recently, an eight-year-old boy named Q started playing with us. He’s like four feet tall and maybe 70 pounds. We’ve decided it’s ok for him to play with us; we just try not to run over him. We have not agreed, however, on how to treat him on the field. Do we go easy on him? How easy?
This is exactly the problem I faced in my classes every day. One person has lower skills, or less experience, than the others – where do we set our expectations? Some players in my game say Q should not get a defender, and if he drops the frisbee we should let him pick it up as if he didn’t. I say that if he’s in the game, he’s in the game! Rules apply! If he’s not ready to play, practice with him on the side of the field until he is!
It’s hard to say what’s best for Q. If you were in our game, you’d know the specific details that he’s actually a pretty good thrower, and doesn’t crack under pressure, and can really catch a disc, and that we should probably turn up the heat on him at least a little. Still, you wouldn’t really expect him to be able to do everything the other players can do. I think a moderate course is the best for Q’s skill level. If we let him keep playing, when he’s 14 he’s going to be better than all of us. If we make him stop, or practice on the sidelines, he’ll lose interest. For the rest of us, when he’s in the game, we can’t really play as hard, and we stop improving as quickly.
In my math classes, the kids with low skill levels had the same effects, and the dilemma was the same. I’d love to say, “if you’re in, you’re in!” but where does that leave the kids that aren’t in?