June 27, 2012


I’m not sure who’s more nervous or worried about this Sunday.

This Sunday, July 1, is the regional competition for Giraffe National Storytelling.  About six weeks ago, I mentioned who our students are who will be competing.  Here they are again: Elva (Kindergarten), Nadia (Level I), Jonas (Level II), Marcus (Level III), and May (Level IV).  This will be the first year that we have a Level IV competitor.  I’m not sure exactly how long there has even been a Level IV in the competition.  Last year was the first time I had even heard about it!

At last year’s final competition in Taichung, there were only three competitors in the Level IV category.  I think they call it the Junior High level, but whatever.  Usually, by the time kids get to this age, they are not so concerned with the English language, and certainly not with telling a story in front of an audience.  Perhaps showing off their video gaming skills or their adeptness at writing messages on their cell phones, THEN there would be a competition!

For a couple of personal, selfish reasons, I really want all of our students to compete at the national level this year.  Our school has a great track record for our students being able to compete at the national level.  If memory serves me, I can only recall one time in the last few years, where one of our competitors did not make it past the regional level.

Elva is a relatively new student at our school.  Her brother, Jonas, has been with us for a couple of years now.  Elva is a beginner in English, and I’m not even sure she is learning English at elementary school yet.  However, she was the first of the five finalists to have already memorized her story.  Of course, she would need to, since she can’t read English, and probably can’t read a whole lot of Chinese yet, either.  Besides being able to do and show a lot of emotion in her speaking and body language, she also has the ‘cute’ factor! I think she will do very well at the regionals.

Nadia is another of our alumni.  She competed last year at the kindergarten level, and this year is competing at Level I.  The story that Nadia is doing, is not a ‘conventional’ story.  I must admit, that this was one of the stories that I had a little bit of doubt with this story.  However, she has, in a word, WOWed me with her rendition of the story.  The story has been cut down a bit from the original to stay within the time limit, but is still a great story.  Being an original story, and that her mother, like all the other parents of the students, is very supportive and helpful, I have no doubt Nadia will show an incredible performance.

Jonas, like Nadia, is an alumni as well.  He has done well with his story as well.  Again, like Nadia’s story, it is an unconventional story.  What I mean by that is, the story is not a well-known or well-told story.  It has been cut down considerably to comply with time limits as well.  However, he is doing a great job at interpreting the story.  I can tell that he is putting his ‘all’ into the story.  He listens to us when Janice and I are giving him criticism and asking him to perform the story.  This is another story that I had a bit of hesitation with, but now that I’ve heard and seen Jonas practicing, this could be one of those WOW stories as well!

Marcus is another alumni!  He has performed in these competitions for a couple of years now, and each time, has emerged as a winner.  He is pre-teen age, and yet still a kid, so sometimes, it’s a challenge to get him to follow direction.  However, considering that his parents don’t speak English, and yet he seems to have a great attitude to wanting to learn and speak the language, he does (eventually) put his ‘all’ into his performance.  He is doing an original story.  Okay, this is where I can say ‘kudos’ to myself.  This story was a story I, personally, wrote for this competition.

Last year, Marcus performed an original story as well.  It was the story of Hansel and Gretel, as told by the old lady of the candy house.  This year, he is regaling the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, as told by the troll in the story.  After his rendition of the old lady last year, this gave me the inspiration to write a story about the troll in this story, telling HIS side of what happened.  I’m not really sure he understands that Teacher Bill wrote this original story.  However, he has interpreted the story very well.  I think again, being that it is an original story, and if he performs it as well as I envision it being told, he will be the star of the day!

May is our most senior alumni.  May has performed in the storytelling competitions for several years.  She has always done very well.  A setback last year, I feel, has only fired her desire to win this year.  May was a little hesitant about competing at Level IV, but I think with the encouragement of Janice, Christine, and myself, she finally capitulated and decided to compete at a higher level.  She was the only student who I felt, could compete at this level.

May is performing a story that is Giraffe story.  Like her story last year, it is a condensed story, again, to keep within time constraints.  For May, we (Janice, Christine, and I) decided that May should choose the story that she wanted to perform.  We gave her options of stories, and she choose the one that she wanted to perform.

Because of May’s grade level, she has had to complete many exams and other testing in the past month or so.  I really was concerned and worried, that she would not be able to compete at this level.  She has had so many exams, that she didn’t have time to memorize her story or to practice, or even come up with any actions.

In the past week though, she has surprised me.  The great thing about May, even though she will deny it, her English abilities are very good!  The unfortunate thing though, is that, for May to feel comfortable or encouraged to perform, I must show her how to perform.  Not that she imitates exactly what I show her, but that she is able to see what my vision of her performance would be, and to take that, and put it into actions.

I get giggles and side comments (that I don’t understand) from others watching me help her for performance, but that doesn’t deter me from showing May, how her actions during her performance, can enhance her story.

I think that, by May watching me perform, and perhaps being a bit silly, encourages her to do the same.  I must admit, again, that she has surprised me.  A week ago, I beginning to have my doubts.  But now that we are getting closer to the competition date, and have been practicing a lot, and hopefully my encouragement has helped.

We (or more appropriately, the students) have only 3 or 4 days before the big day.  My hopes and desires that each of our students will place in the regionals to get to the nationals, is becoming more of a reality.  Late nights, and a lot of practicing, over and over, has given ME the encouragement that each of these students will move on to the nationals.  A couple more days, a lot more practice, and I think, these five students – Elva, Nadia, Jonas, Marcus, and May – will definitely win in their respective categories.

I am extremely proud to be a part of this competition.  I’m not sure what I will feel, if ALL of them place.  I will be ecstatic and overwhelmed.  I can’t see that any of the other Giraffe competitors from the other schools, have put in as much practice time as we have.

Good luck on Sunday guys, and know this – I am so, so proud of each and every one of you!  Each of you have impressed me beyond words.  Know this – I believe in each and every one of you!  I want, so much, for each one of you, to be able to compete at the national competition.  After watching all of you over the past few weeks, I have no doubt, that you will!

Let’s take this year!  2012 is the year Giraffe Nanmen will win the regionals and nationals!

That’s it, that’s all… for now!

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “June 27, 2012

  1. We want our students to receive the same high-quality education as students who are privileged to attend the best private schools in the country, whether it be Sidwell Friends or Fieldston Ethical Culture. Personally, I believe a progressive education is superior as long as it’s delivered by really smart, talented teachers who know how to execute well. It’s a sophisticated approach that really only works well in the hands of a really sophisticated educator. We’re dealing with a little bit of a challenge because students enter this school from the regular public system. And when they enter in fifth grade, they’re not yet proficient in the basics—reading, writing, and math—which means that we have to catch them up on basic math skills, on the basics of writing. And many of them come in at a kindergarten-, first-, second-grade level in reading. So we have to accelerate their mastery of the basics, but we reject the idea that if you do that you can’t teach that at a high level. We push ourselves constantly to think about how we can make sure that our students will catch up while we teach at the highest possible level. It means asking difficult, nuanced questions, not accepting an answer that is not backed up by evidence, the kinds of things that you would expect to see in the best private schools. We aim for a high level in rich discussions where the students are asked to analyze a challenging text and where the teacher does not get accept just any answer simply because the student is behaving. That’s not acceptable. We really push our kids to think for themselves, but in order to do that, in order to achieve that level of critical thinking, a child has to have mastery of the basics. So our challenge is to do both at the same time.

  2. 綿羊

    I’ll do my best and thanks a lot. ^-^

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