Yes, the contest is over and I have already posted the results on Facebook as well as my WeChat moments.
I apologize for being a few days late on this one. The contest was divided among USA and China. From my USA end, I had 31 entries but in China, I had 56!
Among the China participants, I had several categories: current students, teachers in my department, a few teachers outside of my department, their children’s guesses and then the alums along with their children’s entries.
Some guesses were low, some were high; some took a stab in the dark, others haphazardly came up with a number while a few went about it in a more scientific way.
One of my current students, Bill, gave his choice after 5 full days of careful thought and calculation.
“I guess there are 512,” he texted. “I think it’s gonna be between 450 and 540 if you look at the density of the jar.”
Learning from mistakes
As I carefully scanned down the list on Easter Sunday, I couldn’t help but feel a nervous pressure upon me. This has to do with my beginning teacher mistake which I’m sure many first-year teachers can sympathize with.
Years ago, in one particular class, I remember my dramatic, drawn-out, build up to the winning announcement. I had everyone on the edge of their seats. I slowly went down the list of numbers every student had written down. I theatrically opened the envelope with the jelly bean count inside, pulled out the contest paper, looked up with a sly, knowing smile and surveyed my eagerly awaiting college freshmen.
“This is so much fun,” I thought to myself. “I love teaching!”
After a long pause, I took a deep breath and, with ring-master authority, proclaimed the winning number and name. There was a chorus of groans before a sole student popped up with a scream while jumping up and down in victory. After I had handed over the jelly bean jar, which was the prize, I made sure to have a picture taken to record our Easter lesson moment. The bell then rang and everyone filed out after attacking the winner, who had opened the jar and was giving out handfuls of jelly beans to anyone who wanted them.
As I picked up my things, a few disappointed students hovered around my desk to check the list, displayed openly before going into my bag.
In a split second, my self-satisfaction took a back seat to humiliation as the two immediately pointed out, with triumphant righteousness and indignation, that I had made a mistake.
Since then, I have always enlisted help from the class monitors and others to do the announcing for me. If a mistake was made, it wasn’t on me!!
A mistake made twice?!
But this year’s contest from afar was all on me. Knowing how competitive Chinese can be, I made sure to double and triple check the entries before announcing the winner.
I worked hard on getting everything just right, including scrutinizing every entry.
Some students did make more than one guess during the week. I cornered them, saying, “Remember! Only one guess per person. Which entry do you want?”
There were also a few who chose the same numbers as others. After pointing out that all numbers must be different, please check again, those affected were allowed to change their number.
To further alleviate my concerns of a repeat blunder, I continuously checked all WeChat groups involved to make sure no one was left out. With the time difference, entries popped up at all sorts of times during the day and night. Keeping track of them all was no easy task.
In the end, I felt confident I had our winner. And just to make sure all felt I wasn’t showing favoritism, I photographed the entry list for all to see along with the contest envelope’s contents.
It was a former student, Luo, and her family who came up with the closest number to 541 which was 520. After announcing the winner, I explained that when I return to China, I’d bring a special prize for Luo and her children, Maria and Max.
“Congratulations to Luo!”, “Good guess!” and “Lucky dog!” filled all the WeChat groups . . . until it came to alum Jamie.
“I am very sad,” she texted with tearful emojis, one after another . “You did not give my child’s number, Wilson. No prize for Wilson. Poor Wilson. Perhaps you have forgotten.”
In a panic, I checked the list again and, with growing relief, found him.
“Hey, Jamie!” I texted back. “Wilson is Number 45; his guess is 429.”
“Oh,” was her embarrassed reply. “I see. My mistake.”
Yep! Better yours than mine, Jamie. Better yours than mine.
From Illinois, here’s wishing you 平安 (ping ahn) for your day.