Feverish excitement gripped my school during October in the build up to 2 of the most important days in the school calendar: the school's sports day and the school festival. I don't remember anyone getting particularly excited about school sports day back in England when I was a kid and I'm pretty sure we didn't have a school festival day either so I was curious to say the least about what it would be like.
At break time, classrooms and corridors were filled with the sound of cheerleading as students prepared their chants ready to support their teams on sports day. They even made banners and cards to hold up when their classmates were competing in the different events, sometimes trying to do this surreptitiously during my English lessons in the mistaken belief that I - a) wouldn't notice and b) wouldn't mind - how wrong they were. Yes, this was a long way from the egg and spoon races that I remember from my childhood. It was more like the preparations for a major international sporting event (at least the kids seemed to hold it in a similar regard when I threatened to confiscate their banners if they kept messing around in my class). The build up to the school festival was even more impressive. One of the main components of the day was a pop song contest that was scheduled to make up the afternoon entertainment so for weeks the school rang with the sound of singing, dancing students getting ready for their moment of glory. There were even auditions being held for the honour of being able to perform at the festival which led to some of my students having to leave my class to attend their audition - it must have been a heartbreaking situation for them, having to choose between my English class and following their musical dreams! Unfortunately, in common with the UK, awful, wailing pop ballads are very much in favour here in South Korea, especially among students, so the singing in the corridors was of the ululating, throat vibrating variety which was pretty annoying. On the plus side, most Koreans seem to have really good singing voices - maybe it's all that karaoke they do! Another bonus of all this madness was that classes were cancelled for two whole days at my school - never a bad thing!
The students were all made to line up in the school playing field at the start of the day and salute the Korean flag as the Korean national anthem played on tinny speakers.
The first day was the school sports day. Unfortunately, this was the week when the weather suddenly turned really cold so I, like most of the teachers, spent a lot of time hiding in the library which was the only room that had any heating on at this point. I did manage to catch some of the "soccer" (football to us Brits) matches and a few of the races though. The supporters were out en masse. From what I could work out, each class from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades fielded teams and competitors for the different events and the groups of supporters were made up of the rest of the class. It was an interesting sight, as each class had their own specific costume, worn by supporters and competitors alike. Some of the best ones were the class that dressed up in witches hats and cloaks (it was close to Halloween time) and the class that all wore baggy leopard (cheetah?) print leggings with tails coming out the back of them.
The sports day kicked off (sorry) with a few football matches.
Loyal supporters braved the cold with the aid of blankets and banged their baseball “thunder sticks” (inflatable cheering balloons that get their name from the loud noise they make when you beat them together).
My school had it's very own MC for both the sports day and the school festival. The colourful 3rd grade English teacher sported a wacky bandanna and a mic and provided a running commentary for both days.
Competitors line up on their marks ready for a relay race. Note that one of the runners is wearing his class costume of leopard print leggings as are some of the supporters standing at the back.
Most of the kids really went for it in the relay races. There were some funny moments when runners crashed into each other at the changeover point of the race and it ended in a bit pile up of sprawling students and scattered batons.
I think this was class 1-10, clad in their Halloween supporters costumes, giving it their all in support of their relay team.
A photo finish for one of the 2nd grade boys. Note the leopard print leggings worn by supporters in the right hand corner of the picture.
I'm not sure who won the different categories but it was a pretty fun day. The next day was the School Festival, which was even more exciting, but I will write about that in another entry to save this one from getting too massive.