Today was my first time attending a conference in Bismarck for pre-service teachers (what many universities call "student-teachers"), cooperating teachers (the K-12 teachers who host pre-service teachers in their classrooms to learn how to teach with them there as mentors), and the university supervisors and professors who train future teachers. It was held at the University of Mary and consisted of informational sessions in the morning and afternoon and a lunch and awards ceremony at noon. That awards ceremony was supposed to be an opportunity for me to surprise someone . . . but it turns out that I was the one who received a surprise!
The awards given out at noon were essentially "outstanding pre-service teacher" awards, one per ND university with representatives in attendance at the conference. Our department chose a recipient a month or so ago and then invited all our pre-service teachers to attend the conference. Our award recipient-to-be was the first person to express interest in attending, so we decided not to tell him about the award and instead to save it as a pleasant surprise for him today. I was appointed to be the university representative to make the introduction and present him with the award because I am his university supervisor, so I was eager throughout the morning as I visited with him or saw him at various sessions, thinking, "It will be so fun to see the look on his face when he hears me describing the award winner, begins to suspect that it is he, and then hears me call his name!"
However . . .
. . . not knowing what was in store for him during lunch, he had made plans with a Bismarck-area friend to go out to eat between the morning and afternoon sessions. Yes, he drove 1.5 hours to attend the conference but then skipped out on the lunch at which I was expected to present him with the award! As I sat eating and wondering where in the world he had gone, I texted him and left a voicemail message on his cell phone and watched the doors to the room in which we ate . . .but he was still "a no show" by the time I was called up to present our university's award. The crowd laughed when I explained the situation. I said anyway the nice things that I had intended to say about him, and I asked them to congratulate him when they saw him in the afternoon, promising to point him out as soon as he returned.
Our first session in the afternoon was a presentation to the entire crowd, so we all gathered in a large "lecture bowl" classroom. My pre-service teacher showed up for that session a few minutes in advance and started walking toward me, probably to ask me why I had texted and phoned him about lunch. Before either he or I could say anything, everybody figured out who he was, and the room burst out in applause! He was so shocked and discombobulated that he didn't quite know what to do! We ended up going to the podium so that I could formally present him with an engraved plaque, and he spoke a few words of thanks before we sat down and I explained the situation.
I had planned a surprise, and he had gotten a surprise . . but so had I, and none of it had gone as planned. However, it certainly was a memorable component of the conference for everybody there.
And next year, our university's recipient of the award will know about it before traveling to the conference.