Being First #illumedati

Hey everyone, it’s Whatever Wednesdays again. Today we’re going to talk about a somewhat random topic, which is “Being First“.

Being First

Stock Photo from: Pixabay

Being First?


There are a lot of implications for when I talk about “Being First”. It can mean the first to do something or being the best at something. In general, it’s just about being #1.

First a little background:

Right now my daughter is 5 years old. She just started kindergarten. I tend to believe she is a good a little girl and is pretty smart, although I admit I am biased because she is my daughter. My wife and I have tried our best to provide a good educational foundation for her. However, more so than just doing worksheets, I want to instill a sense of pride in her work and work ethic. Like I’ve said before, I want her to be fulfilled.

That said, kindergarten is different from when I went back in 1986. Back then, there were two kindergartens, there was the morning class 8am-12pm and the afternoon class 12pm-4pm. I was in the morning class with my best friend Peter. Now, I don’t really remember exactly what kindergarten was back then. Although I do remember we played a lot outside and learned very basic stuff inside. Like I said, I don’t remember exactly, but I get the sense that the priority was on learning to follow directions and be a good person.

By the end of the year, the idea that you knew the alphabet and how to print was expected for the majority of the class. I don’t think we were reading at that point, nor were we expected to. I do believe that we were supposed to understand basic numbers and maybe do addition and subtraction. First grade however, was completely different. It was “real school” meaning we had weekly spelling lists and were learning words and how to read.

Things may be different now though…

From my limited exposure so far, it seems that “kindergarten is the new 1st grade”. I’ve heard this numerous times from numerous parents. “It’s not how it was back in our day.” is a statement that I hear a lot. Of course, different school systems are different. However, here in Hawaii there are certain things that they want the kids to have finished before they go to 1st grade. One of these things is Fry’s 100 Sight Words. For kindergarten, these are split into 4 separate 25 word books that they want to the kids to get through by the end of the year. Every time you think your children is read for the next 25, they are “tested” on the sight words before moving on to the next one.

I think this is a good setup overall. For the kids who have a little headstart that may already know some sight words, they can move forward a little faster. For those who are just starting out, they can move at their own pace. However, the overall goal is the same. There are many paths to the top of the mountain, right?

I see.. so what does this have to do about being first?

Well, here’s the thing, my daughter is aware of which kids are turning in their books early or not. She knows who is “ahead” of her. This is kind of where I wanted to address something.

I took her aside and explained to her that being first doesn’t really matter to me. I want her to understand that education is a marathon, not a race. Being the first to read, or write, or do algebra or whatever is not all that important to me. What is important to me is that she develops a curiosity and want to know more.

The pursuit of knowledge is never a race, because there is no finish line.

How do you explain that to a kid though?

Well I tried to give her an example. In the sense of reading, I’m not worried about when she learns to read, I’m more concerned about a love for reading, and how much she reads afterwards. I’ve explained to her that when she is able to read, whenever that is, a whole new world opens up to her. The ability to read is just one of the doors to an immense amount of knowledge. When she’s ready, she’ll get her own kindle, and she can have as many books as she wants to read (one at at time of course). In return, I’d like for her to read at least one book of my choosing every month — which she will likely find boring.

She’s really excited. She wants to learn to read, she tries very hard, and she wants to explore this new world that I’ve promised her. However, being first doesn’t matter anymore. She even tells me all the time: “I don’t care about being first anymore daddy.”

I see… what about being the best?

Well, this is different. In general, I think you should always strive for excellence, but it should be by your own internal standard of excellence. We’re not all going to be Olympic swimmers, play baseball in the Major Leagues, or be concert pianists. For many it will be a dream, but for many it probably won’t happen. There simply aren’t enough spots available.

However, that doesn’t mean you should relegate yourself to mediocrity. You need to set your own internal standard for excellence.

But once again, how do you instill that understanding in a child so young?

I don’t know….

but I think it’s ok for them to be self-aware, at least to a certain extent.

For example, my daughter is in swimming lessons and she tries her best. However, there is the crawl stroke, the breast stroke, the back stroke, floating, and jumping into the pool. Then there is learning to turn your head to the side and breathe, and being able to right yourself again. All of this can be so difficult for someone so young. Additionally there is also this fear of not being able to touch the bottom, when you’re less than 4 feet tall in a pool that ranges from 3 feet to 9 feet in depth.

That said, my wife and I always make sure to praise her for trying so hard and doing things well. However, she also knows when she has trouble with things and is aware of where she wants to improve. This is not coming from me or my wife — it comes from her. She has attained her own internal standard for excellence and is able to verbalize what she needs to work on.

Rather than brushing it aside and saying, “no, no you’re doing fine,” we’ve decided to accept her self-criticism. We explain that we see she’s trying very hard, but yes we can work on whatever she thinks she needs help with.

It’s tough though. You want to tell your child that they’re doing great no matter what — however, when they try so hard and want to be better, I think we need to accept and support that.

I also tell her that mommy and daddy will always be at the pool, and if she’s ever in trouble we’ll jump in.   🙂


First doesn’t necessarily mean best — and is usually only temporary.

The pursuit of knowledge is never a race, because there is no finish line.

Cultivating an internal standard for excellence is important I think.

Whatever Wednesdays Sensei


Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.

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