By Jennifer Allen
After my daughter Sam’s freshman year, she figured out basketball wasn’t her sport.
Sam’s sophomore year she decided to try a new sport. Although she knew nothing about Nordic skiing she took a risk and signed up. Since Winthrop did not have a team, she would need to practice at another school, 20 minutes away, a school known for their many state titles. Joining Nordic would mean that she would not only have to learn a new sport but that she would have to do so by immersing herself in a new and an unfamiliar school environment with kids she did not know.
Sam didn’t want to just ski, she wanted to be part of a team. A Nordic team needed four girls to score. After a week and some convincing, she found three other girls from her school in Winthrop who agreed to join her in taking this risk, for none of them had ever stepped on Nordic skis. They would be a team and ski for their own high school but practice with the neighboring school. They embraced the idea of possibility together.
And then came learning to ski. That first year they were referred to by the other school as the “newbies”. Sam would come home from practice telling tales of their collective falls and crashes. With each practice, progress was made, momentum generated, and skills acquired.
In their second year as a team they started to look and sound like skiers. These girls dreamed big. Their goal was to win the Mountain Valley Conference Championship. It might seem like an unattainable goal to most, but these girls were determined and kept the goal within reach. At the end of their 2nd year of skiing (junior year) they came in 2nd place for their conference. They were happy but wanted more. They wanted to win, they wanted the trophy, and more importantly wanted to be recognized as genuine skiers.
Fast forward. As seniors, the girls got the ultimate taste of success. It seemed that their hard work, determination, and humility had all paid off. The Winthrop girls were awarded the trophy for being the 2020 MVC winners for Nordic skiing!
Their smiles as they held the conference trophy spoke of a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Then, 48 hours later came the news that there was a scoring error and that the team had actually come in 2nd place, not 1st. The trophy was not theirs to claim. Their moment evaporated almost as quickly as it had been captured.
Trophies and titles can be handed off, but what can’t be taken away from these girls are the skills acquired and the feeling of accomplishment from new learning.
Just like when kids learn to read, it can never be taken away. It’s not the trophies that we win or championships seized, rather it’s the skills we acquire with new learning that stay with us for a lifetime. New learning is forever ours to keep.
Jennifer Allen is a literacy specialist in Waterville, Maine. She has worked in education for the last twenty-five years. Jennifer started as a classroom teacher in the primary grades and has been working in this position as a literacy/specialist coach for the last sixteen years. She is the author of Becoming a Literacy Leader and A Sense of Belonging, both published by Stenhouse.