An Unusual Game of Monopoly
Yesterday I won a game of Monopoly against my students and I felt like I was the worst player among them. I was really good, I stacked up on houses early on and made a ton of money in rent. When they couldn’t pay my rent they gave me their locations until I had the most in the game. The thing that shocked me though is they played with a whole different value system. When someone couldn’t pay they reduced the rent, when someone lost their money they would all chip in to help that person. They laughed and all just helped each other so everybody could last as long as possible. Eventually the bell rang and the game was over. I had the most money and locations by far, but the least generosity. If the ancient saying is true “The only thing you can truly keep is all that you give away.” then I had the least amount at the end of the game.
I’m living with my wife in a small community in Northern Saskatchewan, Canada. They are tight-knit and friendly. It is a first nations reservation. In some ways it is like travelling to a new country with a very different value system. The students have a lot more independence and freedom and it takes a lot more for them to buy in to simply participate. It’s only slowly as I’ve deepened relationships and built trust that they begin to dive into the activities more. I realized that a lot of the culture I come from is one of competition, passion, and trying to be the best. The interesting thing that was so evident in Monopoly is that these values look a lot different up here. Community is so important and if you really excel then sometimes that sets you apart from the community. If you have big dreams then often that makes you leave the community because there are not too many jobs here. So when I got here it seemed like there was a lot of apathy, but over time I realized that first of all they did not want to be controlled by anyone and second, I think the rewards of working hard are not as obvious or apparent. There is a pretty good life that can be had without a lot of academic success.
All this has helped me to evaluate my own value system. There is more that I can learn from them about generosity, kindness and openness, and hopefully there will be more I can teach them about planning for the future and developing skills.