A Dash of Damper

We bounced on down the freeway. Every adult in their own seat in their own world. A Wet winter day didn’t stop the science olympiad participants from showing up at Occidental College. An event where the only one you are in competition with is yourself. Each individual students’ score is added to the school’s total score. These points fall into categories such as participant, bronze, silver, and gold. Our score does not matter to the other participants outside of our school. But the medal does matter to us. Last year, we scored bronze. Shouldn’t we expect silver this time?

The events have come to a close. Our camp spot is broken down. The scores are being tallied up. Now, we could wait. The ceremony was canceled. And the downpour continues. It was just too wet. 11 children, 4 parents, and one teacher took our spots on the bus. We were going home not knowing if we “won”. Everyone was on the bus except for the three in charge.

Outside the bus, the principal and two others were deep in conversation. I couldn’t read their lips. Next, they are walking back to the registration office. We shouldn’t leave until we find out if we won a medal. Seconds later, a text arrives, “We are going back to find out the results”. We must find out! How could you leave not knowing, was their debate. Should it matter? Is mine.

“I don’t think we’ll get anything. And I’m fine with that.” chimed one 6th grader. She says I’m okay with not getting any medal. Yet there’s a faint quiver in her voice. It’s subtle. But if you listen real carefully, you’ll hear it.

Others quickly agreed. “You’re right. I just didn’t do as well.” They all agreed science olympiad changed up the activities. It wasn’t the same as last year. Feedback and reflection danced within their talks. They found out quickly, that they mix it up every year. It was a different kind of hard.

“Now, all this pressure is on you. You’ll be the next sixth graders.” she proclaims to the fifth-grade team with a sense of release. She’s ready to pass the torch. A strange silence came over them, like the winter’s chill coming through the open door, waiting…

Quietly, we stared out the window, wondering how long it would be to find out. Slowly, technology distracted one. Then another. Just I was ready to plead to the bus driver to take me home to my dry warm cozy couch and slip into some comfy sweats, I saw them coming in the distance. Unable to stop myself I announced, “There on their way back.” A roar filled the bus drowning out the pitter patter of rain falling on the tin can again. The tension returned.

They came in. An awkward silence took over as we stared at our leader. Tell us! The usual speech about hard work and then… You got bronze. Cheers soared up and down the aisle. They did well. Who comes out on a wet soggy Saturday morning at 6 am to spend an entire day in under a pop-up? Some crazy dedicated kiddos, parents, and staff!

For now, it was over. Technology distracted the youth. The adults settled back into our own seats and bounced down the bumpy road in our own worlds. Wet, exhausted, and proud of a job well done. Yet some are already talking about silver.

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2 thoughts on “A Dash of Damper

    1. I appreciate you taking the time to share. One better grasps the concept of feedback after applying effort into one’s work. I “know” this but I haven’t felt it in a while. I get a better sense of how students feel when they go unnoticed for days, weeks… Now, how do I get my colleagues to get this notion?

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