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  • Writer's pictureViva Sarah Press

An outstanding failure

The 10-year-old wanted to try out for a math camp. A camp we were told is way beyond his level.

The head of the camp suggested that he wait a year.

“I won’t stop any child from trying out and I am telling you in advance that it is a very difficult test and I do not want him to feel disappointed. We do not recommend the camp for him this year,” the head of the camp texted me.

I turned to the kid, who has long passed me in mathematical ability and explained.

“Okay, I still want to try,” he tells me.

“You could fail. Do you understand that? I don’t want you to be overly upset if you fail,” I explain, hoping that he’ll still try.

“Yes, and I still want to try,” he answers.

This is a high-sensitive kid.

I clarify it again. Not to convince him to give up but rather to make sure that he understands the probable consequences.

“It is great that you want to try. You can try. But you need to know that the test is above what you’ve learned and the likelihood of you failing is very high,” I say.

“Yes,” he says. “I still want to try.”

The test is online. Covid-19 has made the camp virtual, too. The rules say: No help allowed.

We both know he wouldn’t ask for my help anyway.

It’s a two-hour test. Two of the questions are on topics he has yet to learn so he skips them. The other five questions seem extremely challenging. (I look over his shoulder to read them and understand quickly that I have no idea how to answer them even if I was allowed to help.)

He is in his element. Coming up with theories. Talking to himself. His pencil is scratching away on a piece of paper.

He clicks the send button.

We need to wait for a week to hear how he did.

During the week, he tells anyone willing to listen about a theory he devised to answer one of the questions. He explains his out-of-the-box thinking to anyone who will listen.

His grandfather. Our friends. His friends. His siblings. To us, his parents. Anyone who will listen.

Today, the email arrived: he did not make the selection.

He answered four questions correctly. The minimum to advance was five correct questions.

I am bursting with pride: 4/5 is amazing. Yes, there were seven questions; but he could only attempt five. “How do you feel?” I ask.

“I’m disappointed,” he says. "Yes," I agree. "It is disappointing."

Then he adds: “I tried. I failed. That’s okay. I’ll try again next year.”

Yes, he tried. He failed to make the camp delegation. And, yes, that’s okay. He will try again next year.

It is the lesson I had hoped he would gain.

I couldn't be prouder.


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