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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Of Battles and Battleships and Kindness

Jean Sexton muses:

Today was the second of three days of the Battle of the Books for fourth and fifth graders. This is a competition much like the old quiz bowls where a student is asked a question and must provide an answer within a set time. For this age group, they are allowed to confer and the subject of the questions is limited to a list of books. One question might be "In which book is a quill compared to a sword?" with the answer being Poppy by Avi. It is a round robin tournament which means 120 matches between the 16 schools.

The children work very hard at this and the winning school in Robeson County progresses to the regional level. If your local school district doesn't have a competition like this, I strongly urge you to suggest that it implement a similar program. These children were just as proud of pulling out an answer as they could be. It is a way to reward good readers with a good memory for details.

I've always had a fondness for the USS North Carolina, saved from being scrapped in part by schoolchildren donating lunch money and spare change to bring her home. In total, $330,000 was raised during the "Save Our Ship" campaign. Now a National Historic Landmark, the ship serves as a memorial to all North Carolinians who served in World War II. Knowing that I am moving over a thousand miles away, I recently visited her again to store up some memories. She isn't the plain grey but has on the blue-grey camouflage paint from her war years. I hope to visit her one last time before leaving, but if I cannot, I also took pictures to help my near-photographic memory. (It works when I am near photographs!) Saying farewell to the land I love is difficult, but I know I will find things to love in Amarillo, too.

The self-sacrifice and kindness of schoolchildren has not yet ended. I was struggling yesterday with the pronunciation of one young man's name which didn't resemble its spelling. I practiced it much of last night, but it just wasn't sticking. One of the teams wanted to have its picture taken with me before the competion started. Before they left the stage, a young lady came over and gave me a mnemonic to help me get the name right. I was touched by her thoughtfulness -- and the aid helped me say his name with confidence. Today I was leaving the Battle of the Books when I stopped to admire the bouquets some of the students had been given. As I started to move on, one of the students seperated out one of her pink flowers and gave it to me. Her kindness brightened my day. As I sit here at my desk and look at my pretty pink flower, I hope to pay it forward some day.