Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer English Camp (Day 3,4 & 5)

Things got a bit better in the middle of the week - mainly because the ring-leader of team 4 decided to stay at home on Wednesday. When she was telephoned to ask where she was, her mom was irate because the girl had told her that I had told the girl to not come to camp anymore. So, rather than cleaning-up her act, she looked for an out that involved lying to her mom about what I had said to her. I still see a clear difference between "If you don't want to be here, don't come" and "don't come". Other students translated for me so there is no using ESL as an excuse.

Anyway, mom was pissed because she paid all of this money for her daughter dear to come to camp and blah, blah, blah. I asked my co-teacher (who was also present for our conversation the previous day) to explain the situation to the mom and I started the class. Apparently mom was unaware that her daughter is a slacker who looks for any excuse to bail-out of English class - doesn't she know that it's either this or Math boot-camp?

Day 3: Team Challenges - We decided to split the day up into 3 segments - an activity followed by chapter summary exercises for each hour.

Lowlights: Other than the previously-mentioned phone conversation, not much at all.

Highlights: With the ring-leader away, team 4 really lightened-up and had a good time. We began with a scavenger hunt in and around the school - teams following hidden clues in the English room, on all four floors of the school, and in the school yard where I had hidden them the day before. After the chapter 4 summary, we had a water-balloon challenge where team members faced each other and tossed balloons back and forth, taking one step back after each catch - last team without a broken balloon earned points. It's amazing how much a fun game with easy surprises can create laughs among sleepy and phone-deprived children. The day's last activity before the vocabulary quiz involved taking Monday's "rock, paper, scissors" cards and having students create circle stories at their tables - turning over each card after it's used. Stories were read aloud at the end of class.

*Another things that helped was asking all students to put their cell-phones on my desk after each break. It's like removing their life-force, until they remember that they don't actually need to hold it in their hands with thumbs moving furiously in order to be fully-functioning human beings.

Day 4: Field Trip to the Onggi Museum - Onggi is the glazed, yet "breathable" brown pottery that is used to make kimchi pots and other workman-like items. Very few decorative items have been made with onggi - that's what celedon is for. I had visited this museum with teachers before my first summer vacation at this school. It's a cool little place, and the best part is that it offers an onggi-making course for small student groups. This fit in well with our story theme from summer reading, so I was looking forward to getting out of the school for a more hands-on approach.

Lowlights: Getting 16 students back on buses was no easier than it had been on Tuesday. Oh, well.

Highlights: My voluntarily absent student from the day before was brought into the office and interrogated until she admitted that she lied to her mom. This pleased me. I don't like making students cry, but I like reminding them that they can't always get-away with being lying twits. Of course, the best part of the day was having the students work with the clay. A museum staff member was able to instruct the students into making small onggi mugs and cups. Though I knew that those large kimchi pots were made with the same glaze and firing process, I had no idea that they were also made with the same roll-the-clay-into-snakes-and-coil-them-up routine. Huh... learn something new everyday. The kids appeared to be in a great mood when I bought a big bowl of ddeok-bokki and shared it with them just before we got on the bus back to school. Koreans seem to have no qualms at all about sharing food from common vessels, and I got a kick out of feeding them all with a toothpick like baby birds.

Day 5: Pizza-Making Contest - Rather than rush through pizza festivities for the sake of having enough time to watch a feature-length film, we took our time with the book wrap-up and took our time with the pizza making. This left about 45 minutes to watch a great 30 minute (largely wordless) Nick Park short clay-mation film ("The Wrong Trousers") and give-out our prizes to the winning team and the certificates to everyone.

Low-lights: A couple of my team 4 girls sneaked out of their dish-washing duty as the other students were cleaning and organizing the room. They were phoned to return to school and though they said they'd be back in 10 minutes, they never returned. Little do they know that the principal of the school will be phoning them this week to request that they now be present for the last two Fridays of camp in order to clean the dishes for the other students. I just don't let kids get-away with shit. It's amusing that they are so surprised.

Highlights: I love pizza-making day. I play the soundtrack from Big Night for background music and the kids get busy slicing bagels, and preparing their veggies. I provide them with colored paprika, cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and tomato sauce. They can bring whatever else they want from home. I am using my mini-oven from home as well as my stand-up toaster oven. Dishes and cutlery are borrowed from the Home Economics room. Students make two mini-pizzas for themselves (two halves of a bagel) and each team makes me a half pizza to try. Teams are rewarded for the best tasting and the best looking pizza. I'm thankful that team 2 "The Potters" have won the overall competition for the week and as a result, are rewarded with beautifully-wrapped celadon vases that were purchased by me in Insadong, and wrapped by the nimble fingers of the rabbit. Sang-eun seems especially touched by his prize and he's proud as he should be since he was the one who carried his team through their homework and quizzes. It's nice to see people rewarded for their dedication.

Final thoughts: I've actually just started my 2nd of three camp weeks. I'm sure there will be more highlights and lowlights, but hopefully things will go a little more smoothly from her on out. This will be my 5th 3-week vacation camp run for this school. That's a lot of weeks, but it can be fun. As much as I would like to do a proper novel-study with related activities, I'm not given the ability to control who signs-up for camp - hence the shabby ladies of week 1 and the student abilities that range from barely knowing the alphabet, to those who have already read our book in advance of the first day of camp. The only way I see to solve this is to spend about a third of the camp time on actual edumacation stuff, and the rest on fun and games - it is summer after-all, and as much as I would like the personalities of my summer camp students to match those of my students from my Saturday class, I have to work with what I have. If that means tempering actual English learning with periods of throwing a balloon of refrigerated water at each others faces, so be it. I would like to have my last teaching experience at this school be a happy one.


bizandsteve said...

What an amazing camp! I especially like how you take your students out of the classroom (fieldtrips). I would love to do something like this but I'm stuck with a pre-approved textbook and a different topic each day.

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

Thanks, guys - yeah, it's a pretty decent 5 week plan, and if you're up for it it can be a nice feature about working at a school that's a little more hands-off in terms of their camps, but it is a lot of work.