‘Let’s go, Teacher Charlie,’ calls Frenelly from the living room. It is 8 o’clock and I am still in bed. I had been told that the competition started at 9am so I had planned on an extreme lie in (until 8.30am perhaps). As is often the case I wasn’t told that we were required to go to the activity hall first to sit somewhat aimlessly for almost an hour. The highlight of this was that at the end of the nothingness two of the seniors from my school performed a beautiful, traditional Thai dance in costume holding candles. I was even bold enough to ask if I could have my picture taken with them.
So, today was the day of the dreaded and revered ‘English Speak Competition’, with competitors from other schools throughout the province of Phichit. I was nominated to be part of the panel of judges. There were five of us; two Philipinos, two Thais and myself; all English teachers. I had imagined that the competitors would be speaking in front of a large crowd, but it was just us. I had also imagined that there would be lots of competitors, but between the two sections (Impromptu Speeches and Story Telling) there were only five of them. In the first round- the “impromptu” speeches (which were in fact VERY pre-planned) the first boy, from Anubanwangsaipoon, remembered all of the words but spoke so quietly it was hard to hear any of them. The second student came in and started confidently with a good accent and an interesting speech but about half way trailed off into nothing and sheepishly left the room before finishing. As judges we were given a sheet which we had to give marks out of 5, 10, 15, 20 for various things (see the attached photo); it was very difficult to judge, firstly, a speech that I could not hear, and secondly, a speech that was not finished.
Story telling was up next. One of my students was the first competitor and he honestly nailed the performance. The only unfortunate thing was the English that he had meticulously learned and rehearsed was rather incorrect. What made this frustrating was that a few weeks back I was asked to record myself reading the story. On finding that there were lots of errors I re-wrote the entire book in good English, only for it to become a hybrid of what it was before and after translation during the speech. The second student entertained me greatly. He was a lanky lad, much taller and thinner than the others and had a shy look about him. It was a shaky start. He was reciting ‘the dog and its’ reflection’, a story about the consequences of greed. After each line he would act out what had happened, my favourite section of the piece was when he started pretending to be a greedy little dog choking on/coughing up a piece of steak (with sound effects). I was visibly (and audibly) laughing, the others didn’t look impressed by this.
The competition was over almost as abruptly as it started. By 10am I was requested to leave my classroom and told that there wouldn’t be any more classes for the rest of the day. Usually this would have pleased me, but for some reason unknown to me I was unreasonably displeased by my lack of plans for the rest of the day. I felt like running to the bus stop and hopping on the first bus that came: going on an adventure, but I knew that this was neither acceptable nor advisable. As such, after trudging around the marshy football field briefly and ranting to a friend, I obediently wandered into the staffroom and sat down to write letters and do paperwork for various things (PT internship, university/ accommodation administration) until lunchtime. Admittedly it came round quickly and I felt churlish for my reaction to having a relatively student (chaos) free day.
The afternoon and evening were filled with the same again, interspersed with a bike ride and various chats with people at home in Thailand. I have included a photograph of where I sometimes sit when on Skype; it’s quite a change of scene from my desk in my student flat in Northeast London!