the lost sheep.

For the first time, I had to cut students from my Battle of the Books team. In the past, I have been lucky that the number dwindled down to the magic number of students I am allowed to take to the competition. But not this year. This year I had to choose.

There was one student in particular who didn’t make the team and it broke my heart. I ran the numbers and I tried to make it work, but I couldn’t swing it, not in a way that was fair to everybody else who had worked so hard. I told him that I was sorry, I wanted him to be on the team, I would take him to the competition next year. But he didn’t show up for practice yesterday.

I feel ill-equipped to handle these situations. I am the one who rejected him, and I doubt he wanted to see me. But I couldn’t shake the image that the other students gave me, that he was sitting in the cafeteria with his head down, refusing to come to the library for practice. And I couldn’t shake the idea that he was my lost sheep, that I needed to go and get him. So I left my ninety and nine quizzing each other and I went to the cafeteria (foreign lands for sure) to find the one.

It was as bad as they said. He was there at a table’s edge, head down, discarded chicken nuggets on a tray in front of him. I made him come with me, told him that he’s important to me, gave him the job of reading the questions. He was withdrawn. But he was there.

It was all I could do. It wasn’t enough, but it was all I could do.

I never coach winning teams. I don’t work the students hard enough. We don’t learn the books as well as we could. I want them to see the library as a place they are welcome. I want it to be fun more than I care about winning. And when it isn’t fun, I guess I want them to know that I care enough to come and find them.

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