Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Kids Are Alright

Today I had to getup at an unnatural hour to take Abby to her first high school forensics competition. I also had the assignment of being a judge for the competition. Yes, parents get voluntold to judge these and if your kids are on the team you need to judge at least one competition.

So, we drove out to the host high school early in the morning and signed in and I got my judge packets together.

As a judge you have no control over what sections you are assigned to judge, you only will never judge anyone from your home school. In the morning I would be judging the following competitions: Storytelling, Impromptu, and Duo.

Not sure what to expect for any of these, I hurried to the first room, which was ridiculously hard to find - it was an annex in the lower level of the school, but not the normal lower level, and it was only reachable by one staircase. I wasn't the only one hunting around for that elusive staircase.

Found the room and did the random draw for order with the students and they began their timed performances and I began watching and rapidly filling out the judging sheets. Storytelling is the telling of a children's tale in a manner appropriate to children to watch.

To say the performances were amazing is an understatement.

Polish, poise, and performance level wasn't what you would expect of high schoolers - it was much, much higher.

The fellow I judged to be in first in this round ended up winning the entire competition. To say he was amazing was an understatement - gestures, facial expressions, movement, and different voices for different characters that were perfect every time. This guy better have a bright future in acting is all I have to say. Simply an incredible performance and the others weren't bad either. You can tell they all put a lot of effort into their presentations and it really showed. Quite an enjoyable way to begin the tournament.

Then I had to race to finish the scoresheets, run to the tabulation table and run to the next event.

The next one was impromptu - one student at a time got to come in the room, then had a minute to prepare after I handed them a slip with a statement on it and then had 5 minutes to give a speech on it. Once they were done they couldn't leave the room until everyone was done so no one could get a heads-up as to the topic. Challenging but most did well. There was a funny tick two of them had - memorized biographic sketches of people/things etc that they tried to work into the statement. It didn't really work but it was kinda funny to watch them try. Neither the Bee movie nor Mikhail Bakunin had much to say on the topic: A resolution that standardized testing was good for the American educational system. But, watching them try to put them in was kinda interesting. One poor kid simply froze after the first minute which was rough, hopefully he learns to push through it and just say anything remotely about the topic to get back on track.

Then off to Duo. This is where a pair of students dramatizes the story from a book/script/movie. They're not allowed to have eye contact with each other and can't touch each other.

To say they delivered amazing performances is again an understatement. I was wondering if the schools had brought in professional actors as ringers - they were that good. Judging that one was hard as two of the 4 groups were clear front runners with what felt like flawless performances and to choose between both awesome performances was very difficult. To say these kids are going places would be an understatement.

Then racing back to the tabulation table and then lunch.

Then after lunch as the semi-finals. I was assigned to Sales. Unfortunately I had a bit of a surprise, one of the competitors while from another school, (you never ever judge kids from your school, ever) turned out to be a family friend who I know and whose parents we get together with on a pretty regular basis. That would not work so it was recusal time for me. I contacted the appropriate person and we got a judge swap done and I had a session off.

Then on to finals.

I was assigned to judge poetry. Ugh. Can't say I'm a fan, especially of the modern very leftist poetry that seems to be in vogue among the majority of the competitors. Judging the finals was a panel of three judges, but we each had to score independently of each other and not discuss it among us.

On the upside, the finalists had a lot of skill and their selections, with a maximum of 8 minutes had to have a theme and blend multiple poems into their theme.

But we had stuff like a BLM angry Black girl; a leftist take that combined the Pledge of Allegiance and Let America Be America again and other similar stuff that was a very leftist critique on the USA, an Afrocentric Black Egypt one, a #MeToo Boys will be Boys collection, a pretty interesting one on a relationship breakup, one on addiction and loss, and one that was classical poetry.

As a judge I had to ignore the content. Instead, I would focus on the presentations and I must say all of them were darn good in terms of poise, emotion, delivery, gestures, tone and pace. Most could effortlessly slip between selections as if they were performing a single seamless work.

As one might expect, the judges had differences of opinion over who won. I actually voted the Leftist America poetry performer as first as she simply nailed it on the presentation, but again it was a hard choice in terms of the winner as all were really, really good. In reviewing the scores later, it turns out my number 2 pick was another judge's #1 pick and my number 1 their #2. Interestingly all 3 of the judges picked the same person to come in 3rd and 4th of 7, and we had a few other consistencies so I guess I was judging pretty well.

Then there was the awards ceremony and finals.

All the kids throughout the day were unfailingly polite, respectful to all, helpful to us new judges, supportive of each other, and just a bunch of great and talented kids that clearly put a lot of time and effort into this competition. Yes, the kids are alright.

Proud Parent moment: Abby made it to the semi-finals in oratory in her very first competition in forensics ever. She had joined the team in November and had been working hard on her speech ever since. As a freshman on her first outing she placed 9th out of 50 contestants including experienced seniors. The competition better watch out as she gets more experience.

It was a very full and tiring day but worth it and rather enjoyable. I'll likely step up to judge another competition.


Chuck Pergiel said...

'Forensics' to my mind is the scientific investigation of crime. So I am wondering how it got applied to public speaking.

OldAFSarge said...

Aaron, what Chuck said.

Inquiring minds want to know.

Does sound like you enjoyed yourself.

Old NFO said...

LOL, sounds like she didn't fall far from that tree of yours... Congrats to her!

Aaron said...

Chuck: Answer in the next post.

OldAFSarge: Answer to that in the enxt post. I did indeed enjoy the experience, a lot of those kids have some serious talent and that they were doing all of this as extracurricular activities on their own time as quite cool.

Old NFO: Yep, she's a regular argumentative chip off the ol' block.