Wednesday, April 13, 2011

That Was Today

Okay, I promised myself I wasn't going to let another two weeks go by without posting.  This one's gonna be a quickie though.  [Okay, I lied.  I guess I couldn't resist writing until way past my bedtime.]

I accomplished three things today, with a great deal of trial-and-error:  a) teaching two classes, b) supervising speech choir practice, c) pulling off a massive Treasure Hunt.  Oh yes, it deserves the capital letters.
Class is usually the easy part: I knock together an activity plan that I think both me and the students can have fun with, and then it's showtime.  I blow in there, we do some tongue-twisters, we do some games, we do something creative and wordy, we sing some songs, and I (hopefully) leave them with a week's worth of laughter and enthusiasm for the art of English.

This time, I got confused and blew in there a full hour and a half early, and it took the students ten whole minutes to tell me that I wasn't supposed to be teaching my class then.  I don't really know who was more embarrassed, me after ten minutes of nonplussed reactions from the students, or the students who had to explain their teacher's mistake to her in a foreign language.  There's a cultural difference there, Allen - in America, I don't think any high school student would take ten minutes to tell a teacher that they're supposed to have a free period right then!

Anyway, the second thing I accomplished today - kind of - was speech choir practice.  It was a frustrating practice because of all the setbacks we've had lately.  After more or less perfecting the script, and having the students memorize it, and really starting to unpack the details of our performance, we suddenly found out about the new rules for the competition.  And oh, that our script was breaking or bending a good several of them.

Basically, we had to rewrite three or four key parts of our performance, and change lots of little details in ways that a group of 34 students is likely to forget when they're rehearsing something that they've done a hundred times already.  Frustration and foot-dragging was the resounding mood of practice today.

Also, I brought cookies for them as a special treat, but apparently I didn't get enough for everyone.  :-(

Okay, well, that was sad.  But moving on!  The biggest thing that I accomplished today - today's centerpiece, if you will - was not sad at all.  It was sheer madness.

I've been in treasure hunts before, and I always associated them with gaggles of excited little girls digging up paper clues that lead to more paper clues, that eventually lead to the birthday girl's pile of presents.  It turns out, when treasure hunts are organized on a large and competitive scale for teenagers, the excitement involved is a bit less endearing and a bit more terrifying.

I spent most of this last week putting together an English-grammar-themed treasure hunt, and had fifty students sign up in teams of five.  It would be a 90-minute race to find a series of quiz questions on English grammar, hidden throughout the school, and answer them correctly and in order.  Each team got a different order to follow.  Setting this whole thing up involved a lot of planning with numbers and internet searches, and a lot of pretty artwork with markers and envelopes.  Also, I guess I can write a mean rhyming clue under time pressure.

This afternoon, in the sweltering heat of a tropical sun, the contestants gathered.  The rules were explained.  The enthusiasm pumped up.  The first clues handed out.  When I finally shouted that magic word, "Go!", the students burst from their starting positions like miniature SWAT teams.

It was rather heartwarming to watch, actually.  People were playing my game!  A game that I made, and they liked it!  Yay!

Then the teams started coming back to get their first English questions checked.  Four very helpful student minions and I were responsible for checking teams' answers and giving them their next clues, and until that moment, I don't think I properly realized how very, very into it these competitors were.  Even with each check-er only handling two teams, we were almost literally mobbed.  These people were frantic for their next clues.

Things took a turn for the worse when allegations of sabatoge started cropping up - teams saying that their quiz questions had been re-hidden by other teams, or taken away entirely.  Luckily, we only had to handle a few incidents like this (in the middle of being mobbed, though!), and the game steamrolled on.

With fifteen clues for each team, I was worried that maybe nobody would finish in time, but I clearly underestimated the students' dedication.  An hour and a half later, broiling in their own sweat and fervor, five out of the ten teams had finished before the bell went off.  The winning three are set to be announced at the end of Language Month, which this game/rampage was held in honor of.

Anyway, that was my day, in case any of you were wondering why I haven't called you recently.  I still miss you all, more than ever!

...please comment...

Oh hey, and Meg, look what I saw by my house:


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