Thursday, May 11, 2017
Today was my 11th annual jaunt to one of the local middle schools to judge [School Name] Project presentations. It's one of my favorite days of the year. All the 8th-graders in town have to do a semester-long project on a topic of their choice that culminates in a written paper AND a presentation in front of community members posing as judges. We rate them 1-to-4 on various things (not just the writing, or the actual speaking, but like 10 different specific things: tone of voice, extra 3D/show-and-tell stuff, ability to recover from errors, etc.) It's extraordinarily rare for me to give anyone a 1 for any part of it. Today was a LOT of 4s. And they were actually a pretty good collection of presentations this year. Some years I feel like I've stepped into Lazy Teenage Hell. Not much of that this time, thank God!

So here's the topics they presented today, with commentary as appropriate:
  • Creating video games (a good start; he had some technical difficulties getting started, but he's obviously interested in the subject and juiced about studying for this career, so that always helps a lot)
  • Computer programming (another job-related one; not too many people get excited about writing code, but this kid is one of them!)
  • History of tractors (yes, really, chosen because he's "been driving tractors since I was, like 7, and my grandpa used to have, like, 48 tractors"--and it was actually fun to listen to him gabbling on about John Deere and Allis-Chalmers, etc.)
  • Renewable energy (well done; I wanted to ask her how she feels about the current policies in D.C. but I didn't want to start WWIII in the judges' area....)
  • New Orleans (we should all go, and here are some Voodoo chips and Mardi Gras beads--it's ALWAYS good to feed the judges!)
  • Childhood in Nazi Germany (this was absolutely fascinating--the kid's babysitter/nanny when he was little was a woman who grew up in Germany during WWII; she was 7 when the war ended; he did an absolutely wonderful job integrating her stories with historical research)
  • Jamaica (we should all go to Jamaica, which is a constitutional monarchy without a monarch where their favorite drink is rum; I think this is the first time they were allowed to do vacation destinations as a project, and I got two of them)
  • History of [the city in which she lives] (barely phoned it in, and ended with "it was hard to find information because it's not a very big town"--my first question was "Did you GO to the public library?" Kid: "Oh yeah, I got a book there." Me: "I work there. We have file cabinets FULL of stuff about the city's history." I was pissed. Don't expect me to believe you started this project prior to May 10, dude!)
  • Schizophrenia (nicely done, though she talked so fast I'm not entirely sure what she said--but she had a LOT to say!)
  • Hockey history (first 6 professional teams; surprisingly interesting, despite my overall lack of interest in ice hockey)
  • [state north of us] university sports (fun, and interesting reasons for doing this topic--neither parent went to college at this school--and he's stoked about getting an athletic scholarship there in a few years)
  • How did WW2 start/end (ah the obligatory WW2 talk...yawn--seriously, kids, it's interesting but find a different angle--see above re growing up in Nazi Germany)
  • Large animal veterinarian (another one that gets done often, though usually not specifically large animals--however, she raises pigs and her sister has horses, so she's motivated, and interesting)
  • North Korean human rights (this was a split-personality presentation: the kid had a speech impediment and maybe some other, cognitive, issues, and he pretty much just read his slideshow to us; BUT he knew his stuff, he did research (he's not Korean), and it was topical and I learned a BUNCH of stuff from him. BRAVO!!)
LUNCH (I brought a cheese sandwich and walnuts and almonds and begged a bottle of pop from the teacher's lounge--and I read about books while I ate)
  • History of basketball (another topic about which I have zero interest, but the kid made it fun to listen to)
  • Animal shelters (yet another perennial--she didn't kill herself with research, but it was clearly presented and heartfelt. And there were no pictures of puppy mills, which was a blessing; there are usually horrible photos that go with this subject)
  • Pediatrician (possibly the most professionally-done speech of the day. She kicked ass in terms of speaking and researching, citing sources in the speech itself, and just generally Doing It Right)
  • Volkswagens (who knew there were VW hobbyists? And this kid is specifically into VW buses! He had me hooked--and then he started explaining all the engine specs...yawn...but his enthusiasm was palpable)
  • Airplane piloting (this was one of those kids with the "modern" hairstyle that mimics the kids -I- went to middle school with 40 years ago; he wasn't all that into the whole academic thing, but he wants to be a pilot and has actually co-piloted a plane, so that was cool)
  • Law enforcement (unfortunate: very quiet, pretty much never looked up from reading his notecards, obviously scared out of his mind; and he wants to be a cop)
  • Cosmetology (she wants to do makeup when she grows up, or model; I know what you're picturing, and she's not any of those things, but she definitely has presence and poise)
  • The Holocaust (what a way to end the day: a dispiriting and dispirited talk on genocide; I'll eat my hat if she did more research than opening her history textbook; too bad, really--she has a wonderful speaking voice)
And then we ran for the parking lot to beat the lines of parental cars. On the way home I stopped at Aldi's--where I had to be physically SHOWN where the refried beans are, since I still can't find them on my own because I'm apparently BLIND--and Walgreen's--5 Rxes for Beast.

Oh yeah, because I'd set this day up in March, and last week Beast scheduled his cortisone injection into his lower back for this morning. So I took him over to the office for that, and he'd set up a ride to come home. I'm a horrible wife. But really: he's had something like 10 of these things now, and it's pretty much all show for the insurance company. Maybe it'll help with some of the pain, but it hasn't been much of a winning option yet (since 2011, mind you), so we all know the doctor will see him, post-cortisone, next week and (hopefully) schedule surgery for "soon" which realistically means June sometime. For those keeping score at home, this will be #2 on the lumbar region. The first time was in 2012 where he had a laminectomy, ablation, and other fancy words (the doctor told me immediately post-op that there was "scraping" of the nerve off the vertebrae--hurrah for technical jargon). Then he had similar stuff done inside his neck in December 2015, after the debacle of our vacation in October when he ended up in the ER waiting room for 9 hours in St. Louis.

He's in bed asleep, which isn't shocking at all. He warned me it was likely he would be. I have no idea if I'm supposed to wake him, so I probably will just let him sleep. Maybe the pain level will be such that he can actually rest for a change.

So, yeah. Just another day in the life of.

2 thing(s) to say:

Kwizgiver said...

I would love to judge an academic fair like that. :)

Cat. said...

It really is a blast. I can't recommend it highly enough.

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