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My Dear Moderator!

March 20, 2012

Africa
On March 13th my quizzers had their first match.  Three of the four local high schools met in a quizzing championship.  It was our first competition since August.  We went directly after school (about 4:00) and finally left around 9:00 when the generator cut off.

The guys were so nervous!  As soon as I walked in the door the captain, George, grabbed me and pulled me on stage.  “We need you to be our representative.”  Ohhhkaaay.  I’m used to things like that around here so I took my seat next to the moderator.  THEN they handed me the microphone.  I had no idea what they wanted me to say!!  So I stared open mouthed for about fifteen second then Prince, one of my kids, mouthed “say your name!”

Tryin’.  Tryin’.

We got started and my kids jumped to an early lead.  I was thrilled!  Then the fighting started… and continued almost the whole night.  My team was getting cheated small with them acknowledging the other team when the question should have been ours, deducting points from us for no real reason, being overly technical with answers, etc.  George got flustered and started demanding things be righted.  “Moderator, actually, I have a qualm with that…”  (Our match ended up taking *two* hours)

He was usually right, but the team was getting vexed and I knew their heads were no longer in the game.  At the half I tried to calm them down “you’re smarter than they are. Just keep focusing on the questions.  You know this!”  And I knew they did.  We’ve been practicing three hours a week for months and some of the questions were either verbatim from questions I wrote or from my class.

We lost the first match 60 to 150 and the other team, one of the “rich” private schools, raced around the room screaming and cheering.  Not classy.  My men were obviously devastated.  I tried to comfort them, but they just told me to sit down and went outside to eat plantain chips.

We sat out the next match and finally around 8:00 took the stage again.  …after St. Mary’s defeated for a second time and both teams ran screaming from the hall.  I stood on the stage with my guys and about five other students from our school (no one else could afford to pay $40LD, about fifty cents, to enter).  It didn’t look like there would even be a competition.  The other school didn’t even want to bother competing against us.  I was MAD.

We waited about fifteen minutes and my team told me to go home.  “Ms. RB, go home and rest.  You don’t have to stay with us.”  I just laughed.  “If you’re here I’m here.”  A few minutes later the other team reappeared and we got under way.  There was only an hour of fuel left so they skipped introductions (one of the funniest parts) and we ran straight to the questions.  The other team was cheating.  All their teachers had left and a student was acting as their representative.  He was caught mouthing answers to his team.  My men erupted, as they should.  A different student was brought up and we switched sides.  But the damage was done.  My boys jumped up from their seats and left the stage.  Whoa whoa whoa!  I chased them. “Gentlemen, I beg!  You are playing with dignity and can always hold your head’s up high.  You are smarter than they are.  You know this! Come back and show them what you can do!”  They shook their heads but turned around the resumed their seats.

We were winning.  How could we forfeit?

But again, the damage was done.  Baptist won some points on technicalities then we were neck and neck until the end, losing by a scant five points.  As Baptist cheered and slapped each other’s heads my men left the stage in silence.  “We’ve disappointed you, Ms. RB. We’ve damaged your name.”

I couldn’t hold back the laughter.

“Are you kidding me???  I could not be more proud of you in this moment.  You played an honest game.  You worked *so* hard.  You are the real brains in this room.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  I see you everyday so I should know.”

They smiled weakly and surrounded me we walked into the darkness. “Ms. Rb!  Ms. Rb!” an unfamiliar voice yelled as a student from one of the rival schools ran up.  “Thank you for our brothers.  You are making them very strong.  We all fear them in mathematics!”  I could feel my boys smile in the dark.  “It is all them,” I replied.  “All I do is point the way.”  This continued as we walked back to town and I hoped they were soaking it up.  They deserved to be the ones celebrating, but instead they settled for walking their white teacher home.

“Go!” I tried to tell them.  “I am able!”  But they only laughed and insisted they must carry me through the darkness (walk me home).  They kept apologizing and saying it was all for nothing and I kept trying to reassure them. “What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you, remember?”  George just laughed.  “Surely.”

We compete against Gbarnga next Friday.  I hope for their sake we win.

They deserve it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Catherine permalink
    April 13, 2012 3:04 pm

    You have some amazing students, which really makes sense since they have such a fabulous teacher.

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