Teachers do a lot in Mongolia, there’s no doubt about that. In addition to the paperwork, lesson planning, and classroom instruction, teachers are expected to take part in various competitions. Victory can mean great prestige and rewards from your school, while defeat can raise questions about your effectiveness on the job. In the fall, there are two main competitions at my school for teachers: Methodology and Public Speaking.
I have never seen the Public Speaking competition, but teachers are given an academic topic on which they must deliver a 5-8 minute speech on. This year’s topic was how do we best deliver education to every student? I didn’t have time to ask what they spoke about, but I saw the worry on my teacher’s faces as they lost sleep the night before, timing their speeches and making final revisions. My one English teacher always does incredibly well, and she won at our school again this year.
In tandem with the public speaking, there is a methodology competition. The goal is to create and deliver the “perfect lesson.” Teachers really go all out for these: Props, music, technology; all the bell and whistles you can imagine. It’s very different from their day-to-day lessons, that’s to be sure. Once they win at the school level, they move onto the aimag (state) competition. In Orkhon aimag, they are given their topic a few hours before they have to teach a random class. This is to create a level playing field. Teachers still prepare materials for a variety of topics before the competition, trying to anticipate which one will be selected.
It’s insane to see how much energy they throw into these competitions. I judged my school’s competition last year, and the competition can be quite fierce. One group of teachers had full-size child mannequins to review body parts and clothing. I wonder if such competitions exist in America? I’m sure they’re out there somewhere, just not sanctioned by the government. Either way, it’s great to see my teachers pour their creative energies into activities like this.