Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why I Love My Job, Part 2

Last week, my students and I tried not to panic as we spent two very long evenings bringing their science project presentation up to scratch in order to prepare for an impending international competition. They worked really hard, but we just didn't have enough time. When they left for Houston, I wished them luck, honestly thinking that they would be lucky to scrape an Honorable Mention.

This morning, I entered my office and my co-teacher said to me, "Have you heard? They got bronze!"

YJ and DH had returned from the I-SWEEEP Olympiad triumphant, with a bronze medal! It felt like the room suddenly became ten times brighter. All our efforts really paid off, and do you know what the best part was?

The best part wasn't when my other co-teacher, the one who really grilled them during their Q&A session prep, walked into the office beaming with the good news that I already knew.

The best part wasn't when their chemistry teacher and project adviser caught my eye from another table during lunch and flashed me a thumbs-up with a huge grin.

The best part wasn't when I discovered that my students had bought the English department a gift of chocolate from the US in thanks. (I love chocolate, but still.)

The best part was when YJ and DH came by my office in the afternoon to chat with me personally. They were as awkward and shy as ever, but I gave them the biggest high-fives I could muster and told them again and again how happy and proud of them I was. They told me that the competition was a lot more fun than they'd expected, that the Turkish contestants were really enamored by the Korean contestants for some reason, and that the grand prize winner, a Korean-American from Texas, could speak a little bit of Korean. They also got to visit NASA on their day off! All in all, this was a fantastic experience for these two students, especially since they're not students I'd have expected to succeed in an English-language competition. This bronze medal* is really going to give them a boost in their competitiveness for university admissions this fall.

축하해!

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*The first thing I did when I heard "bronze medal" was check what that actually means. The olympiad had 385 projects, of which 234 were awarded medals (40 gold, 81 silver, 113 bronze) and 86 were awarded Honorable Mention. This means that 83% of participating teams won at least something. There were 7 teams from South Korea.

P.S. Here are some news articles featuring my students (here, here, here, and here) that I will get around to reading/translating maybe over the weekend.

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