Summer Camp, part 2

Less than 24-hours back in Korea and it was time to be at another summer camp. This time, summer camp was being hosted by the Song-pa-gu district office in Jamsil.

Something that I’ve always said was a problem with English classes in Korea, is that the vast majority of books and teachers focus on vocabulary, grammar, and everything “western.” So if you were to ask the average Korean about something to do with Korean history, culture, etc. pretty much are hit with a blank stare and a garble of random words.

The Song-pa-gu district office’s summer camp focuses on Korean culture and speaking, particularly with native speakers. Every day about five students (with a teacher from their school and/or parents) from three different schools in the district came to the broadcast studio in the Song-pa district office to meet with three native speakers. Each student was to have prepared a three-minute speech about something, anything really, speeches ranged from introducing their families to the viewing audience, talking about their future plans, talking about their favorite sports hero, etc. After all the students were filmed, their speeches would be shown at a different time, all of us trekked downstairs to the waiting bus to head to the Samsung Children’s Museum.

At the Samsung Children’s Museum, the students played several games to see what skill areas (logic, motor, writing, etc.) do they excel in and what careers those skills could help them in. There’s a two-part logic game, in one part the kids look for opposite cards and cards with different pictures of 3s on a touch screen and the other part, the kids have to figure out the correct number code. Another favorite is the motor skills game, there are students on both sides of the standing up board, a red and blue team, there are colored touch pads that light up, you get a point every time that you hit your side’s button first.

After that it’s off to the Lotte World Folk Museum, underneath Lotte World, it traces humans from the first human beings to the Three Kingdoms to Goreya dynasty to the Choseon dynasty, using animated models and miniatures. The kids usually get excited to see the T-Rex move his head and open his mouth. And surprisingly, almost none of the students want to trade their lives in modern day Korean to go live in a cave, a hut, or one of the dynastic periods.

I usually tease the kids about we’re going to see Rain and Big Bang, which some of the kids get excited about until we walk past the displays and the bronzed handprints. Then it’s over to the Songa-pa San-dae-nori, traditional Korean mask dance. It’s pretty funny to see the kids try to do the dance, there’s one part where the kids are supposed to move their hips, but the kids sometimes move their entire upper body like a dinging bell.

My frustrations with the camp, basically stem from people not doing their jobs, the director over promised to the schools and really only had enough teachers for a week. So back in June/July I was asked when I would be available to work at the camp, I told them if that they really needed me I could work the last week. Instead they scheduled me to work the day after I came back from Russia. I showed up Tuesday morning, to see that there were already 3 teachers and I was the fourth and to top it off, there’s only one teacher available for the next week. It later comes out that the district director didn’t pay attention to any of the e-mails that were sent to him.

So when he talked to my supervisor, of course he left out the part about him not reading the e-mails and didn’t put himself into a position of losing face, so he did the next logical thing…blame a native teacher, saying that she lied to the district office and didn’t tell them that she was going to America and would have to be quarentined because of swine flu concerns. So now they need me to work another week and I graciously volunteered to work at least three days – I had said I would work a maximum of two extra days and there are four days in the next work week. So I have to wonder what wasn’t the camp director thinking, if he’s shifting the blame on another native teacher and telling a supervisor about it, as he’s trying to get another native teacher to sign up to fix his problem?!!?!?

Another highlight from the camp was the Korean teachers and the parents, who don’t speak English really, start correcting my English. And the head teacher following me around, stopping me mid-question to tell me that the students aren’t talking enough English and I should ask them questions. And whenever I would help a student put on their dance costumes, the head teacher would come around and undo everything and redress them.

Yeah, I’m happy that I’m finished with that summer camp. Awesome!

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