Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Emotionally Challenged.

The last three days have been pretty emotionally intense.  This applies not only to students and teachers competing at NHD, but the parents and grandparents as well.  Rush, and wait, rush and wait, as I stated yesterday.  And then, in a giant flurry, shortly after 9:30 pm, the runoff finishers were announced.  

National History Day offers competition on a single theme, this year it was "Leadership and Legacy."  Students compete on a topic of their choice under that theme in exhibits, performances, websites, and documentaries (in both individual and group projects), or in a written research paper, which is done alone.  There are junior and senior awards, based upon student grade level.  We competed in the very competitive Region 9, and were excited to have 5 of 6 junior high students and 7 of 8 high school students advance to the Pennsylvania State Competition over the last two days.  Runoffs are only announced for documentaries and performances, indicating that an additional appearance in front of the judges is required.

The Facebook threads are fairly humorous, as I chatted with teachers, parents and students on instant messenger while we waited for the announcements.

Aiden and Joanna advanced in Senior Group Performance
James advanced in Senior Individual Performance
Ella and Mackenzie advanced in Junior Group Documentary

Late night strategy sessions resulted in contact with all the families and established departure times for today.  It's easy to say that I am an emotional person, and even more so when I am sleep-deprived.  My mind raced well past midnight, and had me thinking at 4:30 this morning.  These kiddos are, officially, in the top SIX in the state in their respective categories.  And we were waiting for the exhibit and website categories to be announced.

While waiting with Ella and Mackenzie, and speculating about their competition, it was clear to all of us that regardless of the outcome, they were clearly the most emotionally invested in their project.  They had met, cared for, actually LOVED the dear man who was the inspiration and focus of their project.  Their competitors' connections to their topics were much more distant.  

I'm not trying to say this because they didn't advance beyond the state level.  In fact, I started to say it, and started to cry, well before 10 am.  And they totally knew what I was saying and agreed.  And I did my best to pull myself together.

After competition, we waited for results.  I checked my phone and found a tag in my Dear Relative's blog.  Sure.  Another threat to my dripping mascara.

Tonight, one of the parents commented to me on Facebook:

"Your heart is seriously on display every time a kid is up there doing their thing. All over your face..."

As long as I still tear up, and the kids still feel pride and connection to what they do, then life is good.  Because these tears are good tears, and not a result of stress or standardized tests.

When it was over, Jenna had placed 2nd with her Individual Website, advancing to Nationals!  James took 3rd in Individual Performance, with the possibility to advance should either contestant 1 or 2 be unable to fulfill their respective duties...

And the rest of the kids were scouring the judges' comment sheets, and excitedly talking about topics for next year's competition.

And what's not to love about THAT kind of attitude, as a teacher?

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