Bell-ringer Speech Contest

Recently, I had to judge a school speech contest.  Even though I wasn’t informed about the contest until the morning of, I didn’t anticipate any problems.  I’ve judged many, many speech contests.

I arrived to discover that the English classroom had been converted into “The English Speech Contest Zone.” There was even a banner.

A small podium had been placed at the front of the classroom, and all but 5 desks had been removed from the room. The remaining desks were placed in a line in the middle of the room, facing the podium.  On the farthest desk sat a bell.  It was all a bit intimidating.

The students had been told to come to the English room at specific times.  They would be given their speech topics and 5 minutes to write their speech.  Each grade had a different topic.  Each student had 3 minutes – 1 minute to introduce themselves and 2 for the speech.

Privately I thought it all seemed like a recipe for disaster.  I wouldn’t want to write a speech in 5 minutes and I speak English.

The Grade 3s were first.  Their topic was “What is your favourite subject? Why?”

The first child came out and made his way to the podium.  One of the other judges asked him if he was ready, then rang the bell.  He introduced himself quite fluently; I was impressed.  He’d obviously been practising at home.

Suddenly he was cut off by another judge’s cell phone.  It made the sound of a submarine alarm. Aahhh wooooo gaaaaa!  Aaah woooo gaaaa! 

I jumped a foot.  Nobody else batted an eyelash.  The bell-ringing judge rang the bell, and told the kid to stop introducing himself and start his speech.

“I like…. PE.   It’s very funny…………..  I like…. math.  It’s very funny. ….. I like…. I like…..  oh! I like English.  It’s very funny.”

Then he stopped and stared at the ceiling.  Perplexed, I looked at my fellow judges.  They were calmly staring at him.  I looked at my judging papers and discovered they were all written in Korean.

Aahhh wooooo gaaaaa!  Aaah woooo gaaaa!  Ding!

“Thank you.  Next!”

Before I could take a breath to ask what exactly I was meant to be judging, the next kid was at the podium preparing to speak.

It was amazing.  Nearly every child was cut off mid-introduction by the submarine alarm, and yet not one of them appeared flustered.  Nor did they seem uncomfortable standing and staring at the ceiling, waiting for the 2 minutes to run out.

My name is blah blah blah. I am Grade 3.  I like cats.  My mother likes cats.
Aahhh wooooo gaaaaa!  Aaah woooo gaaaa!  Ding!
I like English.  It is funny.

Aahhh wooooo gaaaaa!  Aaah woooo gaaaa!  Ding!
My name is blah blah blah. I am Grade 4.  I like dogs.  My mother likes cats.
Aahhh wooooo gaaaaa!  Aaah woooo gaaaa! Ding! 
I like PE.  It is funny… I like…. I like…..  um….  I like….

Aahhh wooooo gaaaaa!  Aaah woooo gaaaa!  Ding!

Occasionally there were moments of brilliance.  There were also moments when I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing.

One student announced that she loved English because her English teacher was so beautiful.  She then smiled brilliantly and gestured at me.  This was slightly awkward, mostly because I don’t teach her.

One of the grade 5’s told us all about her mother’s beautiful eyes.  “So pretty, just like cow’s eyes.”  Lovely but I wasn’t sure what it had to do with her topic (“How often do you study English?”).  She also sang the entire alphabet song in a quavering falsetto.  Perhaps she was a little unclear on the contest rules…

My favourite moment came towards the end.  One little boy’s self introduction went something like this:

“My name is XXXXX.  I don’t like English.  I don’t like speeches. I really don’t like English speeches.  My mother said that if I participate in the English Speech Contest, she will buy me a chicken.  Thank you.”

A live chicken or a roast chicken?  I also wondered if he had to win or just participate.  Either way, he had my vote! 😀


About Carrie K

Teacher, writer, traveller. Slightly neurotic. Overly talkative. Loving life. You can also follow me on Twitter: kimchigirl72
This entry was posted in Korea, Korean schools, Life, teaching in Korea, Travel, Uncategorized, Work and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Bell-ringer Speech Contest

  1. jessicajhill says:

    I just soaked up every word of this! I can picture the students saying those things. What’s really funny is that even my college freshmen say things like “studying English is funny.” I’ve decided that if I can’t correct that by the end of the term, I’ve failed. The kid at the end gets my vote too – I love honesty. Why are 3rd graders giving English speeches in a contest anyway?

    • Carrie K says:

      It’s a funny mistake eh? Funny and fun aren’t the same in Korean so it can’t be that… it’s a mystery. 😀
      I have no idea why 3rd graders are in speech contests! I have no idea why there was a speech contest at all. Life in Korea….. 😀

  2. megan says:

    Your blog posts are so fun, ah, I mean funny. Classic to get the beautiful comment from a kid you don’t teach. I admire your patience in situations like this speech contest. I think I may have been tempted to turn that cell phone off!

  3. oegukeen says:

    This is really funny (and fun 😉 ). I think I would be petrified to give a speech in English in front of the teachers when I was a student. Even now.
    Your post is really great! I like to believe the kid will get a large grown chicken as a pet ^^

    • Carrie K says:

      I know eh? When I was little and had to give a speech in French class, I would practice for days and days and days! I can’t imagine just 5 minutes to write a speech!
      I want to try and find that kid and ask him if he got a chicken. And was it live or not. 😀

  4. Starfruit says:

    Their moms bribe/motivate them with chicken? … wonder if that would work on my daughter …

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