Posted by: wesleysensei | September 8, 2008

Chocolate Pandas and Crushes

Last week was the busiest week I’ve had since arriving in at Osato Junior High School. The good news is that I loved every second of it. The fact that I can leave at 3:55 p.m. is certainly an added bonus to the job; however, everyday this last week I ended up staying after 5 p.m.!! Why would anyone in their right mind stay almost two hours past quittin’ time? To prepare students for the English Speech Contest.

The top English students were selected to represent the school at the annual speech competition in Taiwa, the neighboring town. One of the students had to memorize a two page speech about her home-stay experience in London. Because her speech was the longest and had no accompanying CD, I recorded myself reading the speech and made tracks of certain words for her to practice. All week long, the students and I devoted ourselves to perfecting each respective speech.

On Friday, the big day had arrived. My JTE had given the advice of eating chocolate before the competition to provide a burst of energy and focus. As we loaded into the van I discovered the students were armed with “choco” sweets and other delicious delectables.

Before the competition started, a typical ALT moment happened. My JTE walks up to me and asks if I can read the names of the presenters. I say, “Yeah, let me look at the titles and tell me what you need help pronouncing.” She responded “Oh, no, will you be the announcer for the competition? It’s ok?” After agreeing I had her write the students names in Romanji so I could read them. Suddenly I was the one practicing for the competition as I began reading the names over and over again worrying that I would mispronounce one.

When the event started I was probably the most nervous in the room! I was ok with talking in front of people but didn’t want to misread a name AND I was nervous for my students because I wanted them to do their best. After all the speeches were given the worst part came: the wait. The next hour seemed like an eternity but leave it to junior high girls to find ways to occupy their mind.

One student brought out these chocolate pandas that were left over from the morning. The bite-size chocolate panda faces became the center of attention but quickly became extinct. What’s next? Girl talk of course. So, not only do I not speak Japanese but I’m also not a teenage girl; I was a clueless to the world of Japanese Junior High School crushes. This by no means left me out of the conversation. The students worked together to come up with a sentence and asked: Who do you think is the cutest boy in ninth grade? I was at a loss and pulled the foreigner move: smile and shake your head in all different directions. The students continued chatting and time began to fly. Before we knew it, the judges had returned and the results were announced. One of the Osato students got second place!!!! I was so happy for her and taken by her humility. She had no expectations of getting a prize and was shocked that she did. I, on the other hand, was ecstatic. I knew she deserved it and that her speech was exceptional.

And so, as second place winner, the student qualified for the competition with other prefectures. The contest is September 10th, and the student and I already practiced after school today. She is listening to the CD I made for her tonight, and tomorrow we will stay late and work on perfecting the speech. The competition will be stiff on Wednesday but I know she’ll do great. All she needs to do is relax and do her best. Maybe more chocolate pandas are needed.

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