Saturday, March 26, 2016

Tis the Season for Competing

Tis the season in Mongolia for competitions!!! March has been busy for all of us PCVs here in Khentii due to all the competitions that have been happening.

Some of my teachers performing at the culture competition
On the weekend of March 12-13, all the schools from the western part of Khentii were all in the aimag center. Teachers came and brought the students who would be involved in the regional academic Olympiad (round 1).

On Saturday the 12th, the teachers from the schools were involved in a culture competition. A few weeks before then, my music teacher found me in the hallway at school one day and asked me what Mongolian instrument I could play. I laughed, looking at all the multi-stringed instruments lying around the music room. I told her I can play flute. Thus, I was drafted.

From that point forward, we had countless practices that lasted for hours. I was glad when that Saturday finally arrived so the endless practices would finally be over.

There were about eight schools that participated in the culture competition. Each school had about 7-8 acts, like a group dancing performance, solo dancer, group singers, solo female singer, solo male singer, solo instrumentalist (my music teacher played the accordion – it as awesome), group instrumentalists, etc. All of the performances showcased Mongolian culture.

It was a long day. I watched a few of the schools perform, but not all of them. My school didn’t go until around 3:00. Caleb, Dylan, and Kyra all came to watch.

At the end, my school won first place overall. The group I performed with was judged the second best group music performance of the day.

The next day, my school hosted Khentii’s western regional academic Olympiad competition. Students from the western schools took academic tests in English, Russian, math, physics, etc. Caleb, Dylan, Kyra, and I along with a couple of other PCVs who were there with their schools from soums, Cassie and Ashley, were asked to judge the English part.

Basically, we graded tests. I’m glad they get us involved for these things, because the tests themselves often have many mistakes within the questions and the answer keys. We had a minor setback when someone from my school wanted us to change the grade so our student could be in 3rd place instead of 4th, but it was all resolved in the end.

Judging the speech competition
Just over a week later, the aimag wide Olympiad took place. This was a much bigger event because all schools were involved, not just the western schools. Starting on the 21st, students and teachers were taking tests in all subjects. The English portion for students and teachers took place on Tuesday the 22nd. So again, Caleb, Dylan, Kyra, Feebee, and I, as well as Ashley and Stephen from the soums, were asked to grade the tests.

It took quite a bit longer for this one, since we also proctored the tests and there were more tests and grades to grade (9th, 12th, teachers). Again, we were basically just grading paper tests. One of Caleb’s English teacher CPs got first place in the teacher’s Olympiad. My teachers were disappointed with their placement, but hopefully that will motivate them to spend more time speaking English with me!

The next day, our Foreign Language Methodologist organized a speech competition for the English teachers. This was done in three phases.

Phase 1: The teachers received several topics to choose from a month or so in advance. They had to give a 10 minute presentation about one of these prepared topics.

Phase 1
Phase 2: The top 13 teachers from the last phase would compete in this phase. In this one, they would pull a topic at random, have five minutes to think and prepare notes, then talk about it for five minutes.
Phase 2
Phase 3: The top 6 teachers from the last phase would compete. Teachers were randomly assigned in pairs, then given a debate topic. They were also randomly assigned whether they would argue the affirmative or negative side. Then, they would debate for five minutes.

Phase 3
This competition wasn’t bad, I thought. Not all the teachers were forced to participate, and it gave the teachers a chance to practice speaking in English and also presenting in front of an audience (great for teachers!). It was an all-day event, though, and the judging was really involved throughout the entire day.

Naraa, who works with the Peace Corps in the summer and who is a great English teacher at one of the schools in the aimag center here, won first place! Two of Caleb’s CPs also made it to the final phase. And two of my CPs made it to phase 2, and I thought they did really well!

Speech Competition winners and judges
Thus ends the competitions of this year. It’s nice that they are behind us now, and I’m glad to have experienced it so I can know better what will happen next year. If anyone has questions about something I didn’t cover, please ask in the comments!

There are only two months left in the school year. We’ve been in Mongolia for 10 months, and time isn’t slowing down. Spring has arrived here and the weather is getting nice. Highs have been in the 50s. Caleb put away his winter coat. I’m still keeping mine out just in case…


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