Today started as ‘one of those days’.
Lately, I’ve been enjoying not waking up early. An easy trap to get into! I’m actually a morning person. I’ve always been awake before the birds. Since my schedule change a couple of months ago, I now have no need to be up early, so I’ve been finding myself becoming more of a late owl. Watching downloaded television programs from ‘home’, doesn’t help with getting to bed early.
My phone started ringing around 7:30am. At first, I thought it was just the alarm or part of my dream. After a couple more rings, I looked at it, and saw that the call was from my kindergarten. 7:30 am! It wasn’t raining outside, so I knew it wasn’t about a ‘typhoon day’.
With the kids now being on summer holidays, the cram school has decided to take the kids to a movie. Like this wasn’t planned ahead of time. Nonetheless, it’s better getting a phone call this early, than not at all, I suppose. All they were wanting to tell me was that classes were to be delayed a half hour. No problem.
If you’ve ever been woken up out of a deep sleep, you’ll understand what I was going through. It took a bit of time before I could fully comprehend what was being said to me. I was confused with my days, whether I had kindergarten classes (which I don’t, on Fridays)…
My morning routine is auto-pilot. I barely think about what I do for the first half hour of my waking morning. I get up, say good morning to Mother Nature, feed the kids, then head over and make my coffee. Until that wonderful scent of freshly brewed coffee wafts through to my office, I’m pretty much a zombie. Everything is automatic. It has been a routine for so many years, I’m not even sure I am fully awake during this first half hour or so.
It’s actually a good thing that I was awoken. Besides now knowing that I had a slight change to my schedule, I also had another obligation this morning – a meeting.
Christine had called me yesterday to let me know that our students from the storytelling competition, were to go to the regional office. The point of this, I suppose, is to allow the regional manager to have their input into the stories. Now, my following comments are not meant to belittle or negate the benefits of this meeting, but rather to suggest, and it is only a suggestion, that perhaps these meetings could be handled a bit differently.
During the regional competition, there are a lot of kids competing. Let’s assume for the moment that there are 18 children in a category. Of these 18 children, only 3 will be invited to compete at the national level. Fair enough. The numbers have to be dwindled down somehow, otherwise the national competition would take two or three days to complete.
At the school level, and before the regional competition, I would like to hope that most of the schools spend time with their kids, training, dress rehearsals, practice, practice, practice. I really like this process. It’s gets the problems ironed out, such as intonation, actions, and the biggie, pronunciation. Yes, it’s a lot of hours, and almost to the point of boredom, listening to the children recite their stories, over and over and over. This is, and has been my pleasure in doing these storytelling competitions.
Our school, in particular, has always done well, at least since I’ve been one of the teaching staff assisting in the process. I’m not saying that it is because of me, but I like to think that I have a big influence on the storytelling process, simply because I am the foreign teacher – the one whose mother tongue is English.
All the time that I put in, to help my/our kids, is voluntary. I do not get remuneration for this time. It is my extreme pleasure to help these kids reach their goal and their potential in speaking and telling a story, in English. When I hear that, after all the practice time, and pushing the kids to their limits, they have won the first or second place in the regionals, I am ecstatic! It makes me so proud to know that, after all the long hours of practice, that it does pay off. And just seeing the looks in the kids eyes when they hear those words, and know that they are among the elite being able to compete at a national level, well, this is what teaching is all about.
Personally, I think that the regional management would be better served to help those other 15 students who DIDN’T win the top three places, in preparing for future competitions. Watching and giving your opinion in a span of 30 minutes, really will not help the students to do any better than they already have accomplished. It’s the teachers/trainers, who have spent almost 50 or 60 hours helping them, that make the difference.
Don’t get me wrong. As with any situation, receiving the comments and suggestions of a third party, is always welcomed. It helps with the next step in the students preparation for the nationals. However, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” Personally, I feel that if the school/student has been able to compete with 18 other students at their level, and been able to come out on top, then the other 15 students are the ones who really would benefit from the expertise and suggestions of the regional management.
Now, I know that it takes the students a long time to digest and perform their stories the way we, as teachers, want it performed. I’m not overly concerned about the region’s opinions or suggestions, because I know that, for the most part, the students will not be able to make the suggested changes, and it will be up to us, as trainers, to help our kids to come out on top at the nationals.
Even when it comes down to the practices at school, Janice and I may have our difference of opinions as to how a story should be presented. We are both working together to showcase our students at their best. I don’t think we work against each other, but more help each other to see another version. And I’m sure, that’s all the regional manager is trying to convey as well. Not that we are expected to change, but to see that perhaps, another alternative is available. It is still up to us, at the school level, to make the final decision.
Having helped 20 or more kids over the years at our school, being able to give my input, and watching our school ranking rise, makes me so proud to be an educator. And there’s nothing more rewarding, than seeing the shining smiles on my students’ faces, when they are declared winners!
I am fortunate to have found and been part of a staff that is dedicated to English language training, and look at me, as the foreign teacher, as more than JUST the foreign teacher. I may not have all the answers, all the suggestions, all the experience… but I do have all the support and recognition to encourage me to continue teaching for as long as I can.
That’s it, that’s all… for now!