Judge and Jury

The Muffin Competition. By far the most delicious one.A few kids were quite proud of themselves, but many more became sad because of me.  How did you spend your weekend?

Yet again, I had to be awake and in a high school on my Saturday morning.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to teach anything.  Unfortunately, I did have to grade kids – one of my least favorite activities.

As I said Tuesday, it seems to be competition season in Hungary.  I’ve been told about language competitions (English, German, Spanish, etc.), math competitions, chess competitions, poetry competitions, presentation competitions, speaking competitions, writing competitions, and drama competitions.

On a side note, none of these come close to being as cool as the beer pouring competitions that I heard about in Belgium.  But, that’s neither here nor there.

Back to Hungary, I went to my school on Saturday morning.  It was full of kids, and I didn’t know most of them.  Some boys were wearing suits and ties, and I saw at least one girl who was wearing a dress fancy enough for a formal ball.  Others looked like they had come straight from their Friday night parties and didn’t realize they were trying to impress academic judges – not other teenage boys and girls.

My favorite were the uniforms that seem to be quite popular – at other schools.  When I visited my friend Nephi in Mezőkovácsháza, I asked him why all the girls were dressed like Popeye.  Is it a Navy school?  He told me they’re just school uniforms.  I wonder if they eat a lot of spinach there?  Popeye would approve.

At least one of these ambitious female sailors found her way in to my school this weekend, and I saw a boy wearing his (I assume) school uniform that looked as if it was left over from the Austro-Hungarian army.

I meandered on in to the school and found the group of teacher judges chatting around a table full of coffee and food.  After downing some caffeine, I was introduced to my partner in crime, Laszlo, a Hungarian teacher who spent a year on a teacher exchange program in New York City.

We spent the day critiquing kids on three tasks:

  1. Make up a story using a list of words.  It contained thinks like Gaming Room, Jewelry, Diamond, Incredibly, Frustrated, Worthless…
  2. Pretend one of the judges is your friend, and discuss how to help your other friend, Paul, now that he’s coming home from his eye surgery.
  3. Compare and contrast two pictures.  The first was three smiling, well-dressed people in a shiny, clean office.  The other was a ragtag bunch of dirty men wearing construction clothes and hard hats.

There were a few good stories, and some pretty awful ones.  I’m not sure if it’s a translation thing, but most of the kids said “I went to the jewelry to buy a diamond.”  They left out the important word “store”, which should have followed “jewelry”.  It was slightly funny at first, but not being able to correct them became slightly frustrating after about the 10th time.  It’s the downside to being a judge.

Each kid had 4 minutes per task, so they shouldn’t speak to us for more than 12 minutes.  We needed a couple of minutes to write down the grades and bring in the next student.  There ended up being 15 for us to judge.

I’ll do the math for you.  12 minutes plus 3 minutes for each student is 15 minutes.  15 minutes multiplied by 15 students on a sunny Saturday equals 247 million hours.

Even with all of my complaining, I enjoyed it.  It was really interesting to see the whole process, and I felt like a valuable member of the community.  At the awards ceremony, I even announced the winners from our group!  The students all came when I announced their names, so my Hungarian pronunciation seems to be coming along.  Unless, the wrong students came to collect the prizes…



Hungarian word of the day:


Pronounced Zone-go-raw.  It has nothing to do with any of this, but my friend Andi is helping me with my vowel sounds.  This awesome word means “piano”.