Anyone who knows me would bet the LAST place anyone would see me in August 2013 is inside a classroom. You would also know that I haven’t done the talent show/field trip/chaperone gigs in years and years. But a school talent show is exactly where I went on Friday. I was invited to judge the Talent Show put on by the English Department at Institute David. Institute David is a public high school in David, about 40 km from where I live in Boquete. Their high school begins with 7th grade. I have been hoping for a while to be invited to the school, ever since Kris wrote about her experience there.
Schools in Panama are very different from my long experience with Florida schools. First, every student wears a uniform. At the school I saw on Friday, student’s names are also embroidered on their sleeve.
Second, the schools are extremely clean. I entered the campus as the morning shift was leaving. There wasn’t a scrap of paper in the large courtyard. Students were sitting around a snack bar. Again, not a single wrapper to be seen.
Third, the students were exceptionally polite (by the US standards I am familiar with). I’ve noticed that kids routinely say “Buenos dias” as you walk by them on the street. They routinely make eye contact when they speak to you. They like to have conversations with you, a skill that seems to have skipped much of the current US teen population. Panamanian schools begin in February and end in December so we are nearing the end of the school year here.
I was invited to judge the Talent Show organized by Amarilis de Arco who teaches English at Institute David. Participating students sang songs in English. There were about 20 singing acts. There were also about 7 dance teams who were rated by a different panel of judges. Some of the dance acts were excellent and showed hours and hours of practice. Another difference from US schools is that every participant, singing or dancing, was respectfully dressed. It was a lot of fun to watch.
The show was presented in the gym. Students and some parents sat in the bleachers. An 11th grade student, Santiago Pitti, welcomed me as I entered the school. We talked for about half an hour before he escorted me to the gym. Along the way, I met his friend and Talent Show participant, Justin. Both were interested in American schools and wanted to practice their English with me. Judging the way they interacted with adults, both seemed older than 17.
Crowd-favorite, Justin, is shown on the left. Below, a young man sang Hallelujah and placed in the competition.
Many of the girls sang songs by Adele, which are difficult since they require a great vocal range. I was surprised at the amount of talent some of these kids have, both singing and dancing. You can see the amount of time they put in practicing their skills.
The winner was an 8th grade girl who has a wonderful voice. When they announced her as the first place winner, they also allowed her to sing another song, this time with no musical accompaniment. What an awesome voice!
I had a fantastic time. I was invited back “anytime” – which I will take advantage of! Many, many thanks to Institute David, Senora de Arco, Santiago, Justin and the other teachers and students I met. Muchas gracias!
By the time I left, it was pouring rain. I drove through David at ‘quitting time’. Driving in David at any time is not for the timid. But a quick stop at El Rey on the way out of town, 40 minutes on the NEW highway, that no longer has the Dolega detour, and I was home.
It was a great ‘first day’ at school for me.