Today, I took six students to the Reischauer Speech Contest in Okayama. Three students participated in the recitation contest. Three students participated in the original speech section. Two second grade students and one third grade student participated in the recitation contest. In the original section, I had one first grader, one second grader and one third grader.
Now, some people have pointed out that a there was a FOURTH Seishin student listed in the original speech category. However, this particular student delivered that particular speech LAST year at the 49th Reischauer Contest (when she was in second grade). This year, she is in the third grade and delivered a new and very different speech at the Joto High School Speech Contest (where, I'm happy to say, she won first place). I think the entry was simply left over from last year's program.
At this year's Reischauer contest, our Seishin girls, in my opinion, did a wonderful job. I'm very, very proud of all of them. Our girls in the recitation contest unfortunately did not take home an award, but it was a very tough contest with a lot of very great recitations, and even though our girls didn't go on to the final round, I'm still very, very proud of all three of them.
In the original speech category, my first grader came home with fourth place, and my third grader came home with first place. My second grader, unfortunately, did not go on to the final round, however, she tried her best and gave her best performance so far. I'm so very, very proud of all them.
Not only our own Seishin student, but many other students from the other schools also did a very good job. I was amazed at what a high-level contest this was. The participants demonstrated a tremendous amount of effort.
I have judged a number of contests myself, and I have delivered comments at many of the contests I have judged. In giving comments to the audience and participants, I believe it is valuable for the judge to explain the judging criteria, and for the judge to offer suggestions on how to improve the speech and performances. However, I feel that one mistake I've made in giving comments is that I've spent far more time and energy on what I felt were the weaknesses of the speeches than on the strengths of the speeches. I think that quoting a speech and talking about why that speech was good, and why the quoted portion of the speech made that speech a WINNING speech is far more persuasive than the huge downer of subjecting an audience to a detailed description of their perceived failures or weaknesses. I feel that this is certainly something to think about because people like to hear what they did right far more than what they did wrong, and a positive atmosphere can be very constructive.. Of particular note, I strongly feel that we judges, if we are going to quote a speech, should never do so in criticism. I feel that would be cruel: to shame a young person by publicly telling the audience why that particular speech was weak. So, I think it's important for judges such as myself to be positive in our comments, and in praising the speeches to be as specific as possible. Such a reward, I think, would be very special to those whose speeches were quoted in praise. Furthermore, I think that when judges such as myself give advice about speeches, or wish to talk about perceived weaknesses in the speeches, we should keep our comments as general as possible so as not to single anyone out or cause them to feel ashamed. This is something I certainly plan to keep in mind in my own comments from now on.
Again, I am extremely grateful to everyone involved in the Reischauer Speech contest for giving our girls the chance to develop their public speaking skills.