I hate sounding cheesy, but I’m not sure how to avoid it when I get to brag on our students here at Chrysalis. In March, we went to the state regional of the national Poetry out Loud competition. Both of our girls made it to the next round, so last weekend, I had the honor of bringing two of our girls to the State Poetry Out Loud competition. POL is a nationwide poetry recitation competition, with one representative from each state going to compete in Washington, DC in April. Our students proved that even though they live in a remote corner of the state, they are just as full of intelligence, poise, and grit as any other student in Montana. And since they made it into the top 20 contestants in the state, they’ve got more intelligence, poise, and grit than most!
Helena is a 5-hour drive from where we live, so we began our physical journey to State on Friday, March 11th. No road trip is complete without candy and jams. Our car ride consisted of schools of Swedish Fish, scores of Skittles, and screamingly loud Billy Joel. We explored Reeder’s Alley, one of the most historic parts of Helena, and then burned off the excess sugar at two separate parks, re-loading at a Chinese buffet for dinner afterwards. Unfortunately, at the hotel, the pool was under construction so our evening wound down with some quality T.V. time. But later that night, we had a surprise visit from one of our girl’s father and sister, who had flown up to see the competition!
The Day of the Competition
Every year, I sit nervously in the audience at the Myrna Loy, a theater with particularly ominous ambiance due to the fact that it used to be the county jail. Contestants sit in the orchestra pit: Freshman and Senior, Northwest and Southeast, male and female, all huddled together in a strange atmosphere of half-camaraderie and half-competition. These students from all corners of our vast state can feel an immediate closeness to one another, but they all realize that the very thing that draws them together also sets them at odds with one another. I’m sure it provides for some interesting conversation, but I do my best to refrain from “helicopter-mom”ing them too much.
Our students make me so proud to teach at Chrysalis. This year, both of our girls recited their first two poems beautifully before we broke for lunch, but neither made it to the final round. I remind them with every round of competition that we’re doing this not to win, but to have fun — but I always worry that they won’t believe me. I worry that if and when they don’t move on to the next round, they’ll feel like failure; I worry that they will blame themselves for a perceived flop; I worry that their self-esteem will be shattered and they’ll elect to be mute the rest of their lives rather than repeat what they just felt; I worry that they’ll feel inadequate; I worry that they’ll think I don’t love and support them anymore. And every year my students show me how mature and capable they are when they handle these situations with poise and resilience. They may not have made it to Nationals, but they gave it their best and realize that it’s enough.
Of course, Ice cream and a ride on the carousel after the competition certainly helped ensure the day ended perfectly.