Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the results

Just to update from speech contest:
I managed to deliver my model speech without much terror. To my disappointment, there was no translation provided to the student body, so I was mostly just up there speaking heartfelt foreign words to them. It sort of reminded me of my own graduation at which I realized, after the fact, that no one of my intended audience had even heard me. I directed my words for a very particular audience and that is not who got it. Zan-nen.

But as I mentioned before, I couldn't care once it was finished, because then it was finished!

The actual speech contest was its usual grind, a bit better in overall quality of speeches and speechmakers this year, but I think that last year's clear winner was a ringer, an anomaly, who would have beaten the whole bunch again. The places were harder to negotiate this year. Who was really the best?

Like I also may have mentioned, I once more went in thinking my kids had a fighting chance. I'm better at knowing what kind of thing goes into speech contest now, and I knew my kids better too. When we chose them, I remember how I was sitting, staring down at a desk, when our female-speech-student to be began her mini speech in class. Her pronunciation had something the others didn't have. She wasn't a ringer, but she wasn't bad. Even before coaching she had a certain vocal quality that allowed her to somehow not sound quite so Japanese, or something. The boy I had picked out at last year's graduation ceremony, but he was also duly chosen by process of elimination. His pronunciation wasn't great, but he was eager, and so highly trainable; his energy was really good, too, strong. Moreover, having seen him cry, I trusted him.

By the time the contest approached, I knew the speeches were solid, content-wise, because we went through a serious speechwriting period sometime near the end of summer. I mean, we weren't messing around. None of this "I Love my Club Activity" teamwork BS, none of this "I want to be a golfer when I grow up." EVERYONE does that stuff every year. We ended up with variations on "I am proud to be part of this class/student council" and "my dream is to be a doctor," but they were solid variations, with proper lead-ins and shit.

My JTEs pushed this initiative, and MP-sensei kept coming back to it again and again. Memorize this because it is what you wrote and want to say. I coached them on sentence pattern and word intonation, but when they asked about gestures, we said, use your judgement, you know what the words mean, use the gestures you feel comfy using to emphasize what points you need to emphasize.

I really liked that in all steps, she made them do the work. When we were finalizing writing, she asked them both "What is your main point?" so we could make sure the speech was grounded in it and returned to it by the end. She asked them near the end of rehearsing, "What sentence or two is most important? And how will you make sure you show that?" So they each had a sentence near the end (their main point sentence, as it were) that they punctuated with louder voices, and fist pumps, etc.

They were good. I had no idea, though, what kind of potential ringers were lurking in the other schools, so I was cautiously optimistic. I cheerfully told the kids that I expected a one-two finish, with speech boy first and speech girl second. But, of course, I would be just as happy with her first and him second, I added.

I kind of did that to make sure she never felt like I was selling her short. To be totally honest, I did favor him, but didn't want to make that obvious. He had a better stage presence, and I knew the one thing that might destroy her chance of placing was her nerves. He seemed to have nerves of steel, and even though her pronunciation was better, I figured his energy and volume, along with the way I knew he wouldn't freeze onstage, would lead him to at least place. I hoped they both would.

Our positions in competition were 5th and 15th, so we sent steel-nerves boy to 15th to sweat it out and let her take 5th to get it over with sooner. When she went up to speak I was excited to hear how it would go. She got on that mic and was, for one thing, louder and more energetic sounding than I thought any of the first 4 had been. She absolutely fuckin' killed it. My jaw dropped as she plowed right through her speech with no memorable mistakes of any kind. She did better in the real thing than she had done in the most recent practices I'd seen.

I was thrilled. I looked over the previous speeches to see if I could remember any that had done better. Lots of kids had done rather well, and part of my joy was in seeing her do so well and overcome the things I thought might hold her back. I could not objectively rate her against the other students, so I just allowed myself to think she had kicked everyone's ass. Once the first half ended, I told her as much, and then grinned at our speech boy and told him he better watch out or she would beat him.

When he did his speech, I was beaming throughout. He brought it, and the other ALTs were admitting as much after the contest ended. I expected him to be that good, though, so I was just plain pleased that it had gone so well. I was proud of them both and figured they both deserved to place, at least, even if they didn't both end up getting it. After that, we did our role-reversal skit, in which a few students were the Japanese teachers, and we ALTs the students (terrible students, generally speaking, just for fun). The kids enjoyed that, as did the teachers.. got more comments on that than on my model speech (tear).

So then the judges came back, and in Japanese they announced third place(s) and then second, then first. They said it all so quickly after deliberating for so long that I wasn't sure I'd heard them properly.
This is what happened.

That's my speech boy with the second place plaque, and my speech girl, with the cup. Not only did we place, we got our one-two finish, and even with the mini-reversal I'd refused not to mention as possible. I'm very proud of them and all their hard work, and I'm very pleased that in this, my third and final year, we took home BOTH the plaque AND the cup.

From 2011_10_18

Fuck yes, I say.

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