Speech Competition

Ah, I almost ended up letting the weekend slip by without an update. I fell asleep on the couch, but I just woke up and moved to my bedroom. Anyway, today’s post needs a bit of backstory. A few weeks ago, several of our students were entered in a speech competition. Not all of them, but it was done through the school, and I know there was an entry fee, but I’m not privy to what kind of money changed hand and what not. What I do know is that The Boss wrote some speeches (actually, that’s an assumption) and we had about twenty students signed up. The other foreign teachers and I had to correct the contestant’s pronunciation, and the same contestants had to stay late to practice. It was a background thing that wasn’t worth mentioning before.

Now, early this week, we found out the contest was this Sunday. I thought, “It would be nice to see the student’s in the contest,” and I wasn’t alone in that thought. Shannon voiced the same opinion, in fact, she vocalized it faster than me. The Boss was shocked that Shannon was interested in coming. I said I’d like to come as well. This also shocked her. She was further shocked when Marybeth, the third foreign teacher said she’d come. The Boss was impressed that all the foreign teachers were going to come and commented that it made the school look very good. It turned out that The Boss and Sunny were going to leave the school at 8:30am and the elementary students would go on first, and then Rosy and Annie would leave at 11:30, so we could come at either time. I said I wanted to be there at 8:30 so I could see the younger kids go on. Several of my younger students were going to be entering.

Poster for the English Competition. Winners go to the States to promote Korean Culture.

Shannon also agreed to the 8:30 group. Marybeth cringed and went with the 11:30 group. Today, on the day of the speech, I woke up around 7am, took a shower, got dress and prepared to walk out the door. I heard nothing from Shannon’s room, and she wasn’t home when I went to bed, so I left. I was the first adult to arrive at the school. There was just a group of elementary girls there. One of them gave me a bottle of tea and other gave me a chocolate. Anyway, Shannon ended up not showing up. We attempted to contact her, but on Friday she had left her phone at a bar. She said she would replace it, but I didn’t know if she did or not. Either way, our calls didn’t reach her, so we set off.

Navigating around Korea isn’t too hard, but it is daunting at first. Navigating with 8 girls and 2 boys around 11-14 years old is a much more daunting challenge. I had help from Sunny and The Boss, but we needed to ride a bus, get off and board the subway, transfer from line 1 to line 7, then board another bus to get there. It was a total of an hour and twenty minutes travel time. And the train was pretty slammed, making coordinating the students even harder. Of course, we got there with no missing students (otherwise the tone of the article would be MUCH different).

After arriving at the University, we got the student’s numbers and met with a couple of student’s parents. Minsa, one of my particularly young, but particularly energetic and attentive students, had her parents there. They bought us all tea before the competition. Some of the elementary students were kids I didn’t teach, and they were separated by year (we only had 5th and 6th grade students) but I was eager to see Minsa, Tina and Gaeun perform their speeches. Minsa was in my first class everyday and she is always eager to answer and if she forgets her homework, she pinky promises to bring it to me the next day. She also gets really concerned her work isn’t up to par, even though she’s usually got the most detailed work. I imagine her being a class president in the future. Tina and Gaeun are both 6th grade. They were in a large class, but all the other students got moved up or down in level except for them. I teach them on Tuesday and Thursday, but it is just the three of us, making it a very personal class. And Gaeun is absent a lot, meaning it is often just me and Tina working together, which means she’s really getting a good deal from the school.

Anyway, when Minsa came up, she performed pretty well. Curiously, while practicing the speech, she kind of peaked a few days ago, then started going down hill a bit. She was a good speaker and her speech went well and she was fine in front of the crowd, but the moment she was off stage she started crying. We comforted her a bit, and then she went home with her parents. The other 5th grade speakers did alright, but there were two students from some other school who were incredibly impressive. One spoke on King Sejong and kind of blew everyone out of the water. The other was a girl who spoke passionately about Empress Myeongseong and was even dressed as her. None of our fifth grade students placed.

After that was a lunch break. As you can imagine, it was challenging to organize all the students into a restaurant, but we managed. The kids hadn’t seen me eat before and were really excited that I was able to eat and even enjoyed Korean food. My larger problem was that we ate at a place that had no chairs. I have nothing against sitting on the floor, but I’m not used to it and my legs just aren’t flexible enough for it. I plan on doing stretches every morning now to get to a point where I can sit comfortably.

Anyway, after that meal it was time for the 6th grade students to go for it. The 6th grade students were better speakers, but most of them lacked the pure adorableness that the 5th grade students had. Tina’s speech was magnificent though. And I wasn’t the only one who thought so, since she placed in the top three. Of course, I’m not the only teacher who teaches her, but I spend a lot of time with her, about half of it one on one, so I think of her as specifically my student, so I was ecstatic to see her win. She had talked about her desire to travel to the United States before, so I’m hope she can win the whole thing. Afterward, me and her spoke in Korean a little bit.

Many of the Korean students aren’t thrilled to learn English, and several of them have the opinion that the foreign teachers need to learn Korean since we’re in Korea. It’s only fair. And I really agree with that mindset and I’ve told students who have asked that I am studying Korean. Since me and Tina are usually alone in that class, we cover material quickly and venture off topic a lot allowing her to practice conversation. And one day she asked about me studying and wanted to hear me speak some Korean. I said a couple words to her, but later I got in trouble for speaking Korean, since it is supposed to be full immersion. I jokingly told Tina she got me in trouble and I’ve told my classes since then that I can’t say anything in Korean because I’ll get in trouble. But since we weren’t at school, me and her could speak in Korean without me getting scolded, hahaha.

Anyway, a little later, the other teachers arrived and so did the middle school students. Most of them weren’t my students, but I saw most of the middleschool speeches before leaving, but I didn’t hear the results. Me, Rosy, Annie, and Marybeth took the kids home. Marybeth doesn’t teach Tina, but was having a conversation with her on the train. She then turned to me and said, “Wow, her English is so good. Almost perfect!” and I said, “Yeah, I know,” and smiled. One of the other students, Catherine, isn’t someone I teach, but she was talking to me a lot on the train. Whenever anyone took a picture, she tried to make sure she was in it and in a model-like pose.

She said, “Oh, James Teacher, your nose is so big. Wait, I mean it is so high,”

I kind of smirked and said, “Really?”

Then said said (with help from Annie) “Oh, that makes you really handsome. I wish I had a nose like that. But I would need surgery for that,”

I frowned, “I don’t think you need surgery, you look fine!”

She laughed, “Oh no, I don’t need it because I have such good natural beauty,”

Then she frowned, “Ah! Sorry, Sorry, I don’t mean to be so arrogant,”

I laughed and told her she was fine.

Me and Catherine. She said, "Oh James Teacher, wouldn't you like a photo with me?"



~ by James on March 25, 2012.

2 Responses to “Speech Competition”

  1. Dude your job is so cool! I can’t even imagine going to a Spanish speech contest when I was in school. I really don’t think anyone of us could really speak Spanish well enough to give a speech even by my second course of college Spanish.

    • Well, that’s one of the interesting things about it. I thought the same thing when it was announced that we’d be entering this competition. While Tina is easily skilled enough to understand and deliver her speech, many of the other students simply memorized words with little idea of their meaning. If you understand Spanish pronunciation and someone wrote the speech for you and corrected you every time you read it and you read it 10,000 times, you’d be able to deliver a speech. Granted, you’d need skill with the language to deliver it convincingly, but it is an example of genius being 99% perspiration.

      But I agree with what you said. I’d be terrified attempting to deliver a speech in any other language, especially Korean. I teach a group of 12 year olds biology in English, which is wild to me. Most 12 year olds I taught in the states could barely handle biology in their mother tongue.

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