Monday, August 12, 2013

"English will take you everywhere!" / High school summer camp 2013

All of my reflections on the camp trace themselves back to a single idea: Making it a good time by staying as positive as possible and enjoying the ride. Like I said earlier, it went very well. I'd best set some context:

The plans I'd drawn up were duly written and revised over four times. The fourth, and most substantial, round of changes took place the day before vacation. JB the co-teacher and I sat down and went over the plans. He made many (good) changes and suggestions, things I hadn't thought of before. The amount of changes necessitated rewriting the timetable, but they were for the best. JB's ideas were more hands-on than mine and thus proved more interesting for the students. Whereas I saw the camp as reviewing and expanding on the past semester's lessons, he envisioned expanding on that by bringing in projects and skits. Indeed, his additions brought more of a fun element to the camp. I should've remembered that the kids work hard enough during the school year and thus need something that's as entertaining as it is educational during the summer.

Still, I was worried about how well everything would turn out. It was my first camp and I'd been put in charge of drawing the plans for a 2-day camp that lasted from 9:30-9:30 one day and 9:00-5:30 the next. I'd have three Korean English teachers as well as two other EPIK teachers on board. Getting two other EPIK teachers was difficult because everyone's different vacation schedules. One teacher was able to help out for the 15 minutes between saying yes and the school telling her that her vacation times changed. Another teacher had a family emergency to attend to. Eventually, one co-teacher recruited Anna from Yanggu and our old Cheorwon buddy Chris stepped up. Additionally, I was to brief everyone about the camp. I felt the pressure to deliver. Despite knowing that many things were out of my hands, I was the man making the plans and thus had to know what to do. The anxieties were there in the days leading up to the camp, but I kept them at bay by remembering to stay on the positive and think about all the good stuff that can happen. It is true that inasmuch as I had nerves, I was eager to get back in the classroom. The long vacation saw plenty of fun, but the classroom never left my thoughts. Maybe it was the camp looming, but it explains why I went to the Hanbat Museum of Education while in Daejeon.

As the time neared*, I kept the good in mind: Catching up with an old friend, working with the students, meeting a new colleague, and seeing the co-teachers again. All four of those things happened and then some. Chris came up the night before and stayed over; we had a good time chatting and joking. Our conversation distracted me from worry.

The camp's events proved that the worrying was for nothing.. Chris and I walked to the high school with high hopes for the camp. R had sent me an encouraging message in the morning, a message that I glanced at throughout the camp. Though the details weren't 100% finished, we felt confident that all would work out. Anna arrived at school a short time later and we all got going with the opening ceremony.

After that, the camp went by in a whirlwind. I was too busy teaching, supervising, or finessing the plans to worry about anything but enjoying the time. The students worked hard all the way through--even at 9:00pm on Monday, after having been at school all day, they were hard at work on their skits. Everyone was engaged and participating. They must have found a second wind after dinner; indeed, Chris and I weren't tired either. We were riding on the energy.

And to our surprise the next day, every group came in with typewritten script drafts and expanded dialogues that they'd written overnight. None of us had assigned homework, but there it was. The kids were dedicated to doing well and beating the competition. Every group was competing for points in different categories. In some areas, every group could theoretically earn the high score because they hit the objectives, but in some, they were competing with each other.The students made excellent use of their time and put lot of care into their skits. They put a lot of care into everything. The pictures below should give that impression!

So, what was to happen during those days? Here's what we did:

  • An awards ceremony.
  • Newspaper posters
  • Jeopardy game
  • Skits about the mini-lessons and life in general
  • 6-station mini lessons on various role plays:
    • Hotel accommodations
    • Airline tickets
    • Making excuses for missing school
    • At the doctor's office
    • At the bank
    • Talking about ethnic restaurants and foods
So, what was to happen during those days?

One of my two groups hard at work on their newspaper

One of Chris's groups put this poster together.

A close-up of the comic at the bottom. Word humor!

To anyone who's putting a camp together, relax and enjoy the ride. Planning days worth of activities is difficult, but payoff is great. The summer camp saw the students climb to new heights in their ongoing language journey. Like the title goes, English will take you everywhere because it's a global language.

Special thanks to the co-teachers for all the logistics and legwork! 

* All through the vacation, emails were flying back and forth between Chris, Anna, and I, so we were all on the same page.
A quick afternoon trip to Incheon's Chinatown provided a good distraction, too. Good times!

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