Monday, January 11, 2010

My First Winter Camp

I beg of you dear reader* to abandon any notions you may have of 'camp.' Forget summer frolics in canoes, camping, roasting marshmallows or arts and crafts. Forget running under the sun and playing until it's time to eat and then playing again until it's time to sleep. Dismiss notions of ghost stories, capture the flag, rock climbing, long bike rides and lazy ice cream cones in the park. For we are in Korea, and camp is a word that they have taken from the Western lexicon and perverted for their own nefarious purposes. Okay, nefarious is going too far. Maybe. Here's the drill: Winter Camp is just school that is optional during winter vacation. Ditto for summer camp. It's like being forced to go to summer school even if you got perfect grades all year. At Salsa Boy's old school the camps were in 4 hour sessions. Imagine being forced to sit through a 4 hour phonics class on your "vacation."

At least my school isn't quite so cruel to their students. Basically, We get them for 2 hours and 20 minutes a day during which time we have to have a lesson plan but so long as the kids are learning something and the parents don't complain, the school doesn't seem to care what we do. There is no official curriculum or goals that we are required to meet. My coteacher gave me one sentence framing what she wanted to happen 'that the kids have fun learning.' I'm a big fan of that sort of thing. She is only with me on Monday and Friday and the other days I have a Korean teacher who is there to translate things if needed and take care of discipline. Anyways, I didn't have a lot of warning on how to plan this thing so we decided to model each day into 3 periods with 2 breaks. I basically tried to alternate learning games with learning activities. We learned about this one game at my training session that you do to The Cure's song "Friday, I'm in Love." It was definitely good for learning the days of the week. I wish there was a similar song for the months. Maybe I'll make one up...somehow. When they finished their journal entry at the end of the day I corrected the entries and gave them a sticker for finishing all of their work for the day well. It's so funny how ecstatic 4th and 5th grade kids get over a little sticker. It's like they are so used to just doing the work for no reward that getting one is a thrill.

As much as I poke fun of the Korean idea of winter camp, it isn't a terrible idea. My kids had fun and I am really enjoying getting to know them. Today I had about 10 kids instead of the usual 40 that we have during the academic year. They got the one on one attention they needed and I feel like they actually learned a little more English in just two hours than they did during the entire month of classes in December. My school also runs a math camp, a music camp, a computer camp and of course, the obligatory remedial camp for kids who failed their end of year tests. I don't know about you but I probably would have begged my mom to let me go to the music camp. Also, what are parents supposed to do during vacation? Korean jobs don't usually give much vacation time and baby sitters are expensive. If you are going to pay money for care**, it's nice to get something more out of it than knowing your child hasn't burnt down the house or decided to eat a cookie peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Actually, that sounds really good right about now...

*I've been reading some more antiquated fiction lately. So sue me.
**I'm not actually sure if the kids have to pay for the camps at public school. I know that the hagwons run camps for extra money during vacations but since the teachers have to work anyways I have no idea if they'd charge extra. I kind of doubt it but you never know.


Nancy K said...

Great post. Do you have to work all day, or do you have more than one group?

Alex said...

I get in, prep for an hour, teach for two, clean the classroom, eat lunch and theoretically do lesson plans and prep for another 4.