SACO – For teachers, Saturdays are often days to catch up on grading, sleep in a bit later, and generally recharge for the coming week. This past Saturday, as 150 students from 16 different high schools gathered at Thornton Academy, I was again reminded why I chose to leave the corporate world behind and enter the classroom.
For nearly seven hours, these students competed against one another at the Thornton Academy New Years Speech Tournament. In some cases the work they recited or performed was original and in some of the categories, the work was certainly more famous and written by published authors.
But in all instances, the students are responsible for understanding the greater meaning of their work and somehow communicating that to the particular judge sitting in their competition room. The students who participate at speech tournaments also seem also to bond with one another as if they comprehend some hidden or secret reason as to why these presentations are an important way of defining who they are.Before the tournament begins, many of the students, often dressed in somewhat formal attire, are found standing inches away from a wall or closed doorway as they practice reciting their particular piece. It’s both amusing and impressive for a teacher to think about the work involved and the level of their commitment.
Before the tournament begins, many of the students, often dressed in somewhat formal attire, are found standing inches away from a wall or closed doorway as they practice reciting their particular piece. It’s both amusing and impressive for a teacher to think about the work involved and the level of their commitment.
Regardless of the category, students are also required to write a short introduction for their work. The introduction if meant to be both instructive and engaging, and in many ways, it sets the tone for the judge who is watching them compete and will rank them against their peers.
After more than six hours of competition, the students and their coaches gather at the end of the day to celebrate their work and honor those who came in first, second or third in their particular category. Sometimes the winners are shocked and surprised, and at other times, hearing the winner’s name called is met with knowing nods and polite applause from those in the audience.
As each team makes their way to the bus or van that brought them to the tournament, goodbyes are exchanged, and you often hear students talking about the next event, and the relative merits of the judges they met during the day.
Win, lose, or draw – it has been a good day, a day filled with poetry, prose, and interesting ideas.
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