Celebrating Nerds!

This past weekend I spent a good portion of my Saturday cheering on the Ames High Science Bowl team as they competed at the state competition at Iowa State University.  During my first three years of teaching I was the coach for our Science Bowl team at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, IA.  (Events are in January so that was the January of 2005 – 2008)  This is a competition that is held every year and draws teams from around the state.  Students must prepare and study content that is not covered in most science classes.

(Quick sidenote: I do not view the term “nerds” as a negative word to use.  I am a nerd and proud of it.  I am also a bit of a geek, there is a difference.  I always tried telling my students this so that any of my students who feel bad when they are called a nerd can look at it as a positive term, because being smart and successful should not be something to be ashamed of.  Typically those who view the term “nerd” as a negative one should be the ones who feel ashamed.)

As a teacher I do not go to many of the main sporting events, mostly because it is nice to have a little time with my family and there are enough others that go so I don’t feel like they need my support, although I give support to everyone during the school day by congratulating them on whatever competition they were in.  I do however always feel a need to go to any of the non-athletic events that may not see much support.  As a student I participated in these events and as a teacher I am always willing to help out.  Last year I was lucky enough to help with our Science Olympiad team and went with them to help as they competed at Nationals at Wright State University.

Let me state right here that I love sports, I love watching them and I love playing them.  My wife is very happy that after Sunday she will see more of me as there will be no more football games for me to watch until August.  So this is not a rant against sports.

This is a commentary on the fact that so few feel the desire to go cheer on the academic teams that compete.  I hardly ever see any parents at the Science Bowl, even for the teams that did not travel very far.  I do not see other teachers going to support their students.  I never see administrators there either.  So knowing this, I wanted to go and cheer on our students that were competing for a chance to go to Nationals in D.C. and show that they have worked hard for this.  These students practice and prepare, just like any other activity, but there is hardly ever a cheering crowd for them.  They do this knowing that most of the time the most publicity they will get is a quick announcement the next week, if there is time.  They also know that there is a greater chance that something like this will help them out in their future learning as many of the national winners receive scholarships to help further their education.

And if people would have gone to cheer on our team, they would have seen some great competitions.  ( A little background, there are 48 teams that compete and the morning rounds are a round robin to trim that count to 16 teams.  It becomes a double elimination competition in the afternoon with the winner going to Nationals.)  Ames tied Kennedy during regulation in their first match of the afternoon, something that coaches who have been doing this for a while had never seen.  Ames won after a 5 question overtime and then went on to beat a few other teams closely, with one coming down to the final bonus question to win by 2 points.  They eventually made it to the championship, without a loss, and faced Central Academy for the second time that afternoon.  The first contest was that one decided by 2 points and this one was close but Ames pulled away for the win.  They are the state champions and are going to get to go to Nationals in Washington D.C.  I am very happy for them and their coach as they are rewarded for all of their effort and time.

If we really do place a large emphasis on learning during the school day, then why don’t we place that same emphasis on supporting and cheering on our academic teams.  I guess many people don’t see the joy in watching a competition where there is no physical contact, but that doesn’t mean that these teams don’t deserve the same support we give to all other teams.  The next time you have the chance, go watch one of these competitions and cheer on those students that deserved to be cheered on, not forgotten.

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