As parents of children attending school, we know that all school performances are not created equal. Some we are apt to remember for awhile, while others will blur with the passing years, and still others we’d like to forget as soon as we leave the scene. Then, every once in awhile, a school program comes along that we just know is going to stick.
I enjoyed one of those more memorable school events this week with my son Aibek, a fifth grader at Charlottesville Waldorf School. His class went to the Olympics! Well, the Waldorf version of the Olympics anyway. The fifth graders had been studying ancient Greek history and culture, and to complement the classroom learning, the school partnered with three other Waldorf fifth grade classes to put together a taste of Olympic competition in the true Greek tradition. So we loaded up the kids in a caravan of parents’ cars and vans and trekked to a summer camp in the woods near Williamsburg. For two days, these young Olympians displayed great effort, athletic prowess, and sportsmanship while trying the long jump, javelin, discus, wrestling, the 40 yard dash, and the relays that climaxed the competition.
True to Greek heritage, the fifth grade classes were not aligned by schools, which meant no “my school is better than your school” pressure and boasting. Instead, students from all four schools were blended into city states: Athens, Corinth, Thebes, and Sparta. After an opening day of warm-ups and practice, the children performed Greek-themed plays and music in the evening. The events also included reciting “The Ode to Zeus” and singing “Glorious Apollo,” not to mention receiving an authentic laurel wreath to wear on their head.
I served as one of the many judges who volunteered from the parent pool. We recorded the top two finishers within each city state at each event, and then selected the students we believed merited the top two places in a separate category of “grace and beauty.” No, we did not judge our own kids. After the competition, we spoke of the achievements of each child.
That’s the rundown of the basic information of these fifth grade Olympics, and I’ll probably remember some of that as my son advances through middle school, and then high school and beyond. But I’m a parent here, so mostly what will leave its mark on my memory banks will be images of my son. First, he had told me before we left that his biggest wish was to be selected for Sparta because he so strongly identified with the Spartans’ way of life. When his name was the first called for Sparta, he screamed in excitement and leaped from his seat. And then the images from the Olympic Games: the perfect form in which he held his javelin, his intense look as he landed in the long jump pit; and especially his initial burst of speed and energy as he launched his leg of the relay, which of course “our” team Sparta won!
When I teach my next “Writing Your Life Story” class to the vibrant senior learning program OLLI at UVA, I suspect I’ll find a way to mention my 2013 Olympic experience. And to my students, and to all of you who may be working on your memoir or autobiography, or simply enjoy writing snippets of your life story, I will offer this suggestion: what is the one school program or event that any of your children performed in that you most vividly recall? As soon as you think of it, write it down!
– Charlottesville, Virginia-based ghostwriter and personal historian Kevin Quirk has been helping men and women of all ages and backgrounds write the most meaningful stories of their lives in memoirs and autobiographies for more than 15 years. He is the author of Life Is a Book and It’s Time to Write It: An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story.