I believe in Rock, Paper, Scissors. When you’re in sixth grade, almost any conflict can be decided with the hand game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Two people count to three with their fists and on “3” they display a hand signal of either a rock where the fist is closed, or paper, where the hand is open, or scissors, where the index and middle finger are open as if they were cutting devices.
It’s a simple game with clear rules. Rock wins over scissors, but loses under paper. Scissors wins over paper, but loses under rock. Paper wins over rock, but loses under scissors. Once you get that, you get the game. The beauty of the game is that there is virtually no margin for error.
I’ve seen angry players on the basketball court settle their flaring disputes by pausing to play the game. Sometimes they’ll play it once; sometimes they’ll play it for the best two out of three. It’s magical. They will also use it to decide who gets to do what.
For instance, if I need a student to run to the office on an errand for me, and two or three kids volunteer, I encourage them to decide by Rock, Paper, Scissors. That way I’m not seen as playing favorites and they realize they all had the same chance for winning.
You can’t believe how competitive two sixth graders can get over the most minute dispute. But when they settle their differences with the hand game, it’s like the dispute never existed in the first place. Both winners and losers forget about it and move on as though life has been settled once and for all.
In the real world, filled with big people, differences of opinion often result in toxic words and hurtful behavior. If only the conflicts could be solved with Rock, Paper, Scissors. I’m not naive; I do understand that life and people are not that simple. I guess in that way, teaching sixth grade is good for the soul. It helps me to remember that we all come from a time in life where decisions, which seemed big at the time, could be humbled down to a simple play of the hands.
Sometimes, just remembering that naivete gives me respite from an overly complicated world.