What is success? How do we as individuals define our own success, as well as the success of others? This question has been weighing heavily on my mind, and it seems to keep popping up in several different aspects of my life.

Recently I was able to attend the National History Day State Competition with a few of my learners. It was a long and grueling process. As I’m writing this. I’m sitting in the audience, listening to some of the more vocal schools whoop and wail, with no idea whether my learners will place or not. I just don’t know.

Win or lose, I know that they will walk away from this competition with a few very valuable life lessons. Life lesson number one: freak out before the day of the competition. After three hours of riding in the car with little conversation about what they were going to do, we stepped out of the car and the panic attacks began.

Two hours before the presentation and they were frantically organizing their annotated bibliography and trying to make final edits to their iMovie documentary. On a positive note, we had to print using the library, and the man helping us commented that the learners’ annotated bibliography was more research than he had to do for his graduate papers. They were frustrated, one group member shy, and still, as is life, the show had to go on.

They were forced to present their original video without any edits, and they were upset. But in the conversations where they were trying to make a decision, I heard some of these comments:
“But that wasn’t historically accurate, we need to change that.”
“Our pictures have to match what we’re saying.”

There were other nuggets of brilliance in their conversation, but the real lesson I hope that they learned was that sometimes you have to go through with something that doesn’t go as planned. Today didn’t go like this group wanted to, but still, they had to present. They had to stand behind their unrevised project, knowing that they could have done better.

So, here we are, sitting in the audience, waiting for awards to start. They may be disappointed if they lose, but the life lessons that they will have learned when we walk out of this auditorium will be more than worth it. One day they will look back on this experience and be proud of what they accomplished. And, it might even be next year when they win it all, because I know that they will.

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