I took a few days last week to participate, once again, in the Southeastern Waldorf Pentathlon. I served as a chaperone last year and this year as a judge. Last year was the last one for the Hall girls. I had attended both Madeline and Bronwyn’s events, but it wasn’t until Thalia’s pentathlon, when I was present for both days, that I came to understand the entirety of this event and how powerful it is for those in attendance.
I wrote about my experience last year and you can read the blog, HERE. Given how thoroughly I was taken by last year’s doings it is of no surprise that I found myself working this event as well.
As a judge, however, my role this year was very different. Previously as a chaperone I served as a kind of camp counselor. I kept the kids herded together, made sure they got where they were supposed to go and in general provided the adult presence necessary to keep a bunch of fifth graders from devolving into a Lord of the Flies style pack of cannibals.
Judging is much more serious business, not because I’m picking winners and losers — come on guys, this is Waldorf, in the fifth grade everyone still wins in some capacity or other — but because it was my job to observe and report. This job just doesn’t lend itself to buddying up or making new friends.
In fact the job requires a certain level of aloofness. In last year’s posts I talked about the dividing of the kids not by school but by personality. I purposefully requested the phlegmatic kids or the Thebans. These kids were of my tribe and I knew I’d see them better. Phlegmatic kids are the persisters. They like order, are physically strong and they can focus. They’re the least high maintenance of all the groups.
My job as judge meant that for two days I was to follow these kids. Watch them. To see how not only they performed, but how they interacted. Over the course of two days I was to observe and at the end of the closing ceremony find something meaningful to express to each of the children about themselves.
As it turned out we were short handed and instead of the usual two judges Thebes would only have one — me. I both relished and fretted over the challenge. As a true Theban I took pride in handling the more arduous task of judging alone, but I also worried. I knew how important this event was to these kids. Would I do them justice?
It’s amazing what you can learn about 16 fifth graders in the course of two days. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I knew them, but I did know something about them and to see the shining look in each one of their eyes as I reflected that something back to them was priceless. Whether it was supporting a young girl who’d fallen sway to her homesickness and still managed to pull it together and go on, bolstering either of the two natural athletes, or calling out the reticent one who really thought he should have been in Sparta, reflecting back to these kids who they were had an almost magical effect over both me and them.
So, I’m hooked. I fully expect I’ll be in Atlanta for the one in 2015 and Nashville the year after that. I think this is just something that I’ll do. The work is way too important and it’s value, while not easy to state plainly, is undeniable.
To our perfect imperfection,