It's final exam week at my school, which means we have to be quiet in the hallways, but it's perfectly okay for jack-hammering to continue at the gymnasium construction site meters from the classroom windows.
I'm doing my best to relax this week. For some reason, I need to lend a hand supervising the exams this time around - something I haven't been asked to do since my first semester in the school in the early Spring of 2009. It's boring as hell, as we must stand silently at the back of the classroom for 45 minutes at a time. I amuse myself by stealing glasses set-aside on the desks of sleeping students, pocketing mine and putting on theirs and see what they make of that when the bell rings.
Gladly though, I also have a fair amount of time in the day to consolidate some materials I've collected over the years, clean, itemize, and organize the classroom cupboards, and most importantly - get ready for summer camp.
Another flash-back to my first semester at the school is the fact that I'll be teaching this camp alone again. I don't mind. Having a co-teacher for camp can be grand in terms of sharing the work and bringing two schools together for a new dynamic, but ultimately, it can also be more work in terms of planning - "Is this activity okay? How about this? Would you like me to take care of that?" etc.
Another thing that should make this camp a good one is the fact that the school has hung-on to my suggestion from this past winter: to use the three weeks to run 3 separate 5-day camps for 3 separate groups of students. With 16 different students every week, instead of the same 16 for 3 weeks, I can allow 48 students into my camp. Some teachers were a little bit reluctant to go this route as one never knows how many kids will be interested in signing-up. Thankfully though, I seem to have made a good impression on my grade 1 students and the camps filled-up in the first 3 days after posters went up.
I'm also grateful to learn that the summer reading book selected for our district is A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park. Here's what the publishers have to say about the book:
Park molds a moving tribute to perseverance and creativity in this finely etched novel set in mid- to late 12th-century Korea. In Ch'ul'po, a potter's village, Crane-man (so called because of one shriveled leg) raises 10-year-old orphan Tree Ear (named for a mushroom that grows "without benefit of "parent-seed"). Though the pair reside under a bridge, surviving on cast-off rubbish and fallen grains of rice, they believe "stealing and begging... made a man no better than a dog." From afar, Tree Ear admires the work of the potters until he accidentally destroys a piece by Min, the most talented of the town's craftsmen, and pays his debt in servitude for nine days. Park convincingly conveys how a community of artists works (chopping wood for a communal kiln, cutting clay to be thrown, etc.) and effectively builds the relationships between characters through their actions (e.g., Tree Ear hides half his lunch each day for Crane-man, and Min's soft-hearted wife surreptitiously fills the bowl). She charts Tree Ear's transformation from apprentice to artist and portrays his selflessness during a pilgrimage to Songdo to show Min's work to the royal court. Readers will not soon forget these characters or their sacrifices. Ages 10-14.
I know that 12th century pottery may not be as thrilling as Starcraft II to most of the students who signed-up, and the short novel is mostly beyond the understanding of 95% of the students who likely signed-up for the camp, but I'm also excited to be teaching a Newberry Medal winner to a class that may gain a new appreciation for one of their country's more celebrated art forms: celadon pottery.
Though we won't be reading the entire book together, I'm taking the time to go through the book and make comprehension questions, crosswords, vocabulary lists etc to be completed in teams each day. Students will earn a better understanding of the novel up to the point of the beginning of Tree-ear's journey to Songdo, and then I'll let them see what happens in the last three chapters on their own.
So, I'm getting ready for camp, and this, minus the daily novel study bit, is what the 5 day (9:00am - 12:00pm) plan will look like:
Monday: Introductions, team-building, introduction to the novel
Tuesday: Field trip to North Seoul Dream Forest, scavenger hunt, art gallery visit.
Wednesday: Team challenge day, outdoor & indoor team games, activities & treasure hunt.
Thursday: Field Trip to the Onggi Pottery Museum where students can learn about pottery making methods and try there hand at designing their own molded piece.
Friday: Pizza-making contest and Movie Day
I'm not yet sure what I'm going to show for the movie, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a hard time finding something pottery-themed. Maybe I should just stick with the idea of the quest. Suggestions?
Anyway, I'm excited about the plan. The book is great, and though it's out of reach for most of the students, it may give some of them an edge should they decide to take part in the Golden Bell book quiz during our school's English Day celebrations in the fall.
Here's hoping for happy, pottery-making students and good attitudes for the three weeks of camp. I'm actually looking forward to it, and I'm glad to have finally found two decent field trip destinations that are within 10 minute bus rides from my house, as opposed to 70 minutes by subway.