July 3, 2010


Well, I guess you could say it is officially summer now!

I’ve had a lot of changes to my work schedule. Usually this doesn’t happen until mid-August. However, since summer is upon us, people are heading out on holidays, teachers are leaving, new teachers starting, etc., etc., I suppose this is a major reason.

My Sunday schedule, for now, is non-existent. That is, for the next few weeks, I have Sundays off. A blessing in disguise. Next Sunday, July 11, is the district competition for Giraffe’s Story-Telling Competition. I’ll get to that in a moment.

My Saturday schedule is basically cleared up as well. I haven’t had so many free weekends in so long, I’m almost giddy. It does mean though, that no work, no pay! It also means I’m going to have find a REALLY inexpensive way to get home for my holidays in September.

My Saturdays though are not completely free. Instead of having classes, my afternoons are spent with Janice and the competitors from our bushiban in getting their stories up to snuff. I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again – I have a very good feeling about this year’s story-telling competition. The four students have been working their little butts off, and I know, Janice and I have been really pushing them this year. I think Janice is wanting to see all four go to the national championships probably more than myself!

Giraffe Story-telling Competition, Part I

Therefore, I suppose, this is as good a time to talk a little about the four competitors from our busiban. They are: May (The Quirky Queen), Wayne (The Truth About Hansel and Gretel), Jonas (Lizzy the Lion), and Nadia (Froggy Gets Dressed).

May (The Quirky Queen)

May has been to the national competition, representing our bushiban, for two years in a row. This will be her third year, and perhaps (but not certain), it may be her last year. In the two previous years, she has won first place. In the three years (now) that I have had the pleasure of working and helping May with her stories, I have discovered that she is willing to do almost anything to get the prize – well, almost!

May listens to Janice and I during our critique of her practices. She practices at home, as I suppose a lot of that is due to her mother. She pays attention when we correct her pronunciation. She is willing to act silly, do the ‘big’ motions, use the stage… whatever it takes to tell the story, as a story-teller.

Too many times over my 8+ years in Tainan, I have helped many students compete in these competitions. The ones that listen and learn and practice, are the ones that do well. The ones that listen, and still do their own thing, are the ones that wonder why they don’t win! Go figure.

Many students get on stage, introduce themselves, tell their story as if they were reading it from a newspaper, then step down. Boring.

The idea of telling a story, especially the stories these students do, is to capture the audience. You have to grab the audiences attention, in whatever way necessary, to get them to sit down for 3 minutes, shut their cellphones off, and listen. If the story-teller can get the audience to react (laugh, clap, whatever), then they have done what is necessary.

May is one of those story-tellers. She may not really believe it herself, but once she gets on stage, she has a way of getting the attention of the listeners – the judges, other competitors, the audience. For that 3 minutes, May is in charge of the room.

Another thing about these competitions, which I’ve mentioned to May, is that they are videotaped. The various Giraffe bushibans around Taiwan are then provided with a copy of the videotape. The one thing that I really stressed with May is that she really has to go one step further this year.

For the past two years, yes, she has won the top prize. What she has to realize is that other schools are watching her past performances, and helping their students to be better than her. This year, she has to ‘… pull a rabbit out of her hat… ‘ to win. She can’t go in there on her past wins, and expect to win this year. Once you’re at the top of your game, you have to do something to go that extra step.

That being said, I have every confidence in her this year. It has been an extreme pleasure to watch and help May these past two years. I am also very proud of her, as it also makes not only the bushiban, but Janice, her teacher (Christine) and me, look very good! It shows the other bushibans as well as Giraffe corporate, that our bushiban is a very good place to learn English.

(Part II, continued July 4, 2010)

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