Friday, December 16, 2011

Prize Giving

Prize giving is the end of the year celebration at every school in Samoa, and it includes everything from candy necklaces, to Christmas carols, siva dancing, and tons and tons of food. It is a combination of the process of ending the year and celebrating the students. Prize givings generally start with a report from the principal about what happened at the school over the course of the year, then another reports from the president of the school committee talking about the same thing. Then comes the awarding of prizes. At the primary level, this means announcing all the students by their rank in the class. Their rank is based solely on students’ scores from mid-year exams and final exams (I always hated those classes in college that based my grade off of 2 or 3 things over the course of a semester). Announcements start with the youngest year and go up from there. The top five students in each grade at my school received prizes, which included things like notebooks, school supplies, soap, food, and anything else that might also be a prize at bingo. As the names are called, parents and family members come up and put candy necklaces on students, the teacher, and the prominent community member (pastor, mayor, president of the school committee, etc.). Year 8 students all got prizes at my school because it was their last year at the school. My principal asked me to teach the Year 8 students a fa’amavae song (a fa’amavae is what you have when somebody is leaving – sometimes super formal, sometimes just saying good-bye). I decided to teach them the “Graduation Song” by Vitamin C – As we go on we remember/all the times we had together./ And as our lives change, come whatever/we will still be friends forever. Very appropriate, I thought. I don’t know who sang the song originally (assuming Vitamin C wasn’t the first one to sing it), and all my kids wanted to know if it was a pese Michael Jackson or a pese Celine Dion, but I couldn’t tell them. So with 4 school days left before prize giving, I wrote out all the lyrics to the song, cut out half the stanzas, then started to teach it to Year 8. Only then did I realize how many words the song has and how complicated the rhythm is. So I tried to simplify it as much as possible, and we still used newsprint at the prize-giving, but I thought it cameo ff pretty well. My Year 7 students also asked me if they could sing a song at prize giving, so I taught them “What a Wonderful World” and that was by far the best decision I have made in my life. I’ll probably have them sing it again next year. Or maybe I’ll teach it to the whole school next year. It was great. What I didn’t expect at the prize giving was that all the students had to dance after the prize giving. The way most sivas work in Samoa is someone gets up to dance, their family and friends come up to join them as background dancers, and a box or a bowl is put down in front to collect money from the audience. I have 160-some students at my school, and every single student was called up to dance. Sometimes it was shortened because brothers and sisters danced together, but it still took way over an hour to get through all the dancing. I went to the prize giving at the college (secondary school) the next day, and they only had the students who received prizes get up and dance, and they did it as a year instead of individually, so all the students who received prizes from Year 9 danced together, all the students from Year 10 danced together, etc. etc. It didn’t take quite so long. I didn’t call any of the years because I only teach English, but I still got crowned with a few candy necklaces from some of my students, which I then recycled at the college prize giving so I wouldn’t have to spend forever making a bunch of my own (that’s how it works though. At the college prize giving, students would get a dozen candy necklaces, then go put a necklace on 6 or 7 of their teachers or however many subjects they had). In a nutshell, that is the end of the school year in Samoa. I like it, but I’m not sure I would want to organize something like that year after year. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of food.

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