I noticed this post sitting in my draft box, finished but for whatever reason never published. So here’s a throw back to November, and one of the most enjoyable parts of my job as an ALT- Speech Contest!
Since the conclusion of うんどかい, I’ve been working many 10+ hour days, staying late after school to practice for the upcoming city-wide Junior High School English Speech Contest. The speech contest is an annual event that heavily involves the “expertise” of the local native English speakers- aka the resident ALTs. If you work at a junior high school you’re likely running the practices. If you only work at elementary schools then you’re one of the designated judges for the event. Since I work at a junior high, I lead the charge for practices at school.
Although I was working unpaid overtime, I can honestly say it’s the first time that I’ve worked so much without pay and been completely thrilled about it. Not to say I would have refused some extra compensation if it were offered of course, but leading practices after school had me feeling like a useful member of the staff and was giving me some much desired opportunity to forge relationships with students outside of the classroom. Since I have had ups and downs as far as getting into classes, I was happy to have something that was my own and relied on the most useful skill I have here: speaking English! This is not to say I know much about effective speech writing or performing, but nonetheless I was determined to have fun and help my students improve their English.
Things didn’t get off to the strongest start. I only had about 7 confirmed performers, 2 of which dropped out before I started practicing. But thanks to my JTEs (and maybe some pestering on my part) we managed to recruit 10 students to participate! My school is the biggest JHS in the city, and I had more than twice the students any of the other ALTs had which made trying to fit in practices for everyone a challenge (I was the only one practicing with them), especially as autumn encroached and student had to go home earlier and earlier, cutting practices shorter and shorter. But we pushed through, I made a fool of myself trying to gesture and over pronounce everything and communicate in basic English what I wanted them to do. I got some laughs along the way and was really proud of how hard the students tried to not only understand me but also to incorporate what I was coaching them on into their performance.
Tuesday, November 10 was the big day. Unfortunately this was also the day when my sickness dug in and was at it’s peak. It was so frustrating that such an exciting day was so tampered by my poor health! I was so excited but didn’t have the energy to show it as much as I wanted to. When I started practices with the kids, I felt really competitive. I wanted them to win and I was determined to put all my energy into making that happen. As time went on though, I was just proud of their progress and thrilled they had shown the commitment to take on the speech contest and be brave enough to stand in front of a room full of people and speak in a language that wasn’t their own. They progressed so much and tried to hard for weeks and weeks and it was just wonderful to see them finally get to show their hard work.
Although my students didn’t get first place, they did win in both categories. I was thrilled for them. I hated that my smile was hidden behind my stupid sick mask, and I felt even more guilty when they looked to me for encouragement. I smiled wide anyways, hoping they could see in my eyes how happy I was and wanting to give them some sort of positive feedback in a sea full of stoic Japanese faces.
It was a good experience, and although I was disappointed with some of the results, I was so proud of my students. I already know I will miss the practices and am currently searching for ways to fill the void left by the speech contest.