Catherine writes: I'm sure that my fellow AET's will have a lot to say about this but for my part I have to say this was pretty intense. The competition draws students from middle schools all over Iwate. There are two kinds of speeches; recitations and orations. A recitation is a student reading a story from one of the textbooks or the textbooks supplemental material. They are judged on pronunciation, clarity, and the use of gestures and facial expressions. An oration is a student reading a speech that he or she has written and prepared themselves. They are judged using the same criterion as the recitation. This part of the competition is the more prestigious of the two and the awards are literally larger.
The students are ranked against each other rather than some outside criterion the only marker they have to follow is for time. The speech cannot exceed five minutes or it is penalized. For the orations the choices of topic are limitless but the for the recitations the stories must come from the textbooks so there is a lot of repetition. The students went based on their year in school and which story they picked. This means that the judges could and did hear up to twenty recitations of the same story over and over again.
I was there to support two students that I have been helping for the past weeks. They both conducted themselves admirably but did not take top prizes. When the kids and I started working their pronunciation was so bad I had trouble understanding them, they made many mistakes many times over. By the time we were done they had both improved by leaps and bounds in terms of both clarity and pronunciation. I'd say they improved by at least %50. I was very proud of their efforts. I know that not taking a prize was disappointing for both of them but they went so far in a very short time that I can't help but feel good about them. When I started this job I was told that there would be students who just didn't want to learn or who really wanted to but just couldn't for some reason. That the biggest impact I was likely to make was in terms of international understanding. Today what I did in the classroom and my abilities to teach English made an impact. I know that they are both better English speakers because I was able to teach them and I'm glad. That's kind of a self-centered attitude but I hate feeling like I'm being paid to speak my native language rather than teach it. Today was the proof that I taught English rather than just spoke it.
Patrick writes: I actually did not attend the speech competition, but I'm glad it's over. I was drilling students for about two hours per day for the past three weeks, and you can only hear the same five minute speeches so many times before you start to lose it. I couldn't believe they wanted to practice so much (of my three students, one didn't want to practice, and two did very much; of those two, one hated going to track and field and the other actually enjoyed English). I am happy that one of my students won fourth place in the speech contest proper.