July 31, End of Camp

And just like that summer camp is over.

I was excited to start because this would be my first in-person camp. As you know, Covid canceled or mangled the ones planned in Seoul. Remember phone camp? What a week.

What I hadn’t expected was the demographics of students, though I should have: I surmised that five were there for English interest, five were there because their parents wanted them to practice English, and the other ten were there because parents wanted them out of the house for a few hours.

There were some Harry Potter obsessed fifth graders, a trio of boys I had to split up because the rest of the class accused them of swearing, quiet girls who came out of their shells, and two sixth grade girls who did not. One was in fact the quietest student I’ve ever not heard; I had to lean in an inch from her face to hear her mumble things as basic as her name. This is not the kind of insecurity I have ever faced from an elementary schooler.

But the kids did the crafts without complaint and paid attention.

We focused on learning planets and then stars. We played madlibs as a class. We had a paper rocket throwing contest which they went too crazy over. The farthest and shortest throws both got awards which they found amusing.

One boy struggled to read but by the end of camp he was happily showing me his completed projects and showing off his paper rocket.

When noon hit on the last day the kids bolted, empty chairs practically spinning by the time I turned around. Just like that, a week of planning and teaching and re-planning was done.

I know I can just dial it in and play a movie and some games every day, but I want to push the kids and myself. It’s why every day after camp I spent another few hours re-planning the following day. I had to be at school for another four hours anyway so it didn’t feel like a waste of time.

Next camp, I want to try a week-long culminating project as well as having team and individual points. I’d also like to do group activities assuming the kids have been vaccinated by then.

During camp what I felt most was, I could get so much further if I spoke Korean. My purpose as a guest English teacher, however, is not to try modern teaching techniques and have in-depth discussions; as such, class is structured for the most basic conversation practice only.

I can feel the gap between us because of communication. I don’t want to teach just English but also critical thinking, global awareness, and creative problem solving. I want to pull all the weird, wonderful thoughts out of their head to examine together.

But I can’t do that with intermediate Korean, or with thirty five minutes of class time per week. I want to connect with my students at a higher level but feel the restraints of language, time, and duty. Thus I can only take what the students give, until they’ve learned English or I’ve learned Korean.

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