So last Wednesday we (the other foreign teacher and I) were asked told that we would need to participate as judges/interviewers at the incoming freshman English competition the following Thursday night. This competition would dictate which three students from the freshman class would receive year-long private English training to compete in the nation-wide English competition next Spring. The contestants (20 total) would read a speech, analyze a graph, and then answer three questions about the product they were selling. For the last third of the competition (the question-answering part) my colleague and I would be the interviewer. This seemed easy enough and we agreed to show up. One problem was that I would not make it until 6:30 (it started at 6) but they reassured me it would be fine.

Thursday night rolls around and I arrive on campus to head to the competition. First thing I notice is that there are hundreds of freshman all around the competition area. I quickly realized that not only would the 20 contestants all be there, but so would hundreds of other freshman to watch.

Okay that is fine, I have been in front of crowds before and I actually enjoy it. I am getting stared at, but again this is something I am quite used to. Remember, I am also dressed up in my teaching outfit (nice shirt, tie, slacks, dress shoes) so I kinda stand out as well.

The first phone comes out to take a picture.

Ok Sam just smile, wave, and find your seat. The competition has already started and I sit down next to my colleague ready to start scoring the contestants. The interviewing part was pretty smooth on our end, but pretty terrible on the contestants’ end. They had simply memorized the first two parts of the competition so when this third part came, they all struggled. Learning English in China is almost all memorization-based (as I have quickly found out) so thinking on their own and coming up with their own ideas in English is quite difficult. So every once in a while I turn around to look at the crowd and naturally their reactions are to giggle and take a picture.

Again and again and again.

So now I am really feeling the celebrity-status high and decide to strengthen the fire. I face the front, put my sunglasses on, and turn around again.

Literally shrieks of joy are coming from the back as they start snapping away pictures. I wish I took pictures/had pictures of this scene because it was hilarious. But not quite done yet. The competition ends and the scores get tallied.

Our supervisor tells Helen (the other foreign teacher) and I that we will be presenting the second-place prize on stage. Okay that us fine, I mean we are the English teachers so that is expected. We also do not have to say anything so no pressure as well. The two “competition hosts” get to the front of the stage and the lady (who was flawless, btw) starts thanking everyone for coming and commenting on how well they did. Naturally, this whole speech is in Chinese so I can understand only bits and parts, but I happen to catch the last part……现在Sam老师要说你们。Rough translation, but basically she said that I would be coming onto the stage, by myself, to address the crowd of 300 freshman. The other host than announces this in English and I realize that I have no choice.

So I take the microphone and turn on full American mode on these kids; they had no idea what was coming. I introduce myself and congratulate all the freshman who participated in the competition, told them they should all be excited to start learning English, did my little Chinese thing, and thanked them for having me. They were absolutely mesmerized. I could have told them to jump off a bridge and they wouldn’t have even thought twice. So much picture taking and giggling. It was great stuff.

After the competition, a few stuck around and asked for pictures/my wechat and stuff. I gladly gave it out because it not only gives them a chance to practice English, but a chance for me to practice Chinese 🙂

Overall it was a great night and I am very excited to start teaching these guys! While some of the 2nd and 3rd years have lost motivation to learn English since they are no longer tested, these freshman seem very excited. It is much more enjoyable (and easier) to teach when students want to learn! Maybe I will wear sunglasses for the first day.

Looking forward to my next English competition ~