About a week ago I got the honor (curse?) of being the moderator for a school-level bee. Believe it or not they hold bees for many more subjects than just spelling. There are math bees, geography bees, vocabulary and writing bees, and so on. This bee was held for the ten students who won the classroom level competitions.
There we are at school. Its 6:30 in the evening so most rooms are dark, and there are very few people around except those attending the bee. The students are seated in a row along the stage; my timer (Mark) and my scorekeeper (another teacher) are at a table behind me. I am doing my best to sound official without being callous (I don't want to be Ben Stein or worse!). For each round, every child gets one question. I ask these questions in turn, wait for the answer, and then tell them if they are correct. At the end of each round we assess. Anyone with two wrong answers must leave the stage. The timer times; the scorer scores (no joke!). The air is tense with teenage nerves.
Then, half way through the competition I am in the middle of asking a question when I notice to small girls standing just outside the door. They cannot be more than six and eight years old; far too young to attend middle school. They are both in tears. Only the people on my end of the stage can see the children because they are mostly hidden by the shadow of the doorway. I finish the question, but everyone is wondering why I am so distracted. The scorekeeper suddenly jumps up, says "I know those girls!" and takes off with them. Now I am standing on stage, wondering who they are, and trying to figure out how to finish the round without a scorekeeper. I call a pause. Surely the kids need a moment to relax right? I call my brother out of the audience for emergency scorer training, and within a few minutes we're off again. We finish the bee with a clear winner. The winner gets his medal, I thank everyone for their participation, and people file out.
Afterwards, we discover that the little girls were dropped off at an elementary school a few blocks away for an evening event. The mom did not go in to the school, so she did not know that the event had been cancelled. The little girls, finding the school dark and empty, began walking up the road toward out school. What a nightmare for a kid! They wandered in hoping to find someone who could help. It turns out that the scorer recognized them from her church, so she was able to take them outside and let them call their dad. Dad came, with much apology (save it for your kids!) and picked them up a bit later. I felt so badly for those little girls. It is the kind of event that could really cause some lasting trouble for a kid. It was certainly a much more memorable bee than any other we've had at school.