Wednesday 21 August 2013

Teaching in South Korea (Christian/English Summer Camp)

"Hey Teacher" "Teacher FINISHED!": 2 phrases I became accustomed to hearing everyday in class. I taught x2 classes of ten students, all with a medium grasp of English and aged between 9 - 12 years old.

B-6 Students
B-5 Students

The First Day 

The first day, admittedly, I found a little terrifying. I had no idea how much English the kids would understand. Would classroom management be a problem? How do I pace the lesson? How can I make it fun!?

First class: B-5, just 7 pupils that day. There was an air of curiosity, they didn't know what to expect of me and I didn't know what to expect of them. I started off with an ice-breaker (a great tool for kids and adults alike), asking each child their name and favourite colour. We read through the set passage together as a class and sped through the activity with ten minutes to spare until the end of the lesson. 
I finished off with games. Hangman didn't work very well and end of lesson trivia didn't either because one girl knew the answer to all the questions. 
After the first lesson, I was buzzing with adrenaline. I moved next door to B-6, the older kids, and found them much easier to teach because the class were louder and more engaging. 

From the first day, I learnt that:
- I needed a 'randomizer' to ensure that each child got a equal chance for answering questions (Name raffle)
- More game ideas (a good starter activity and a way of using up excess lesson time)
- Less un-necessary communication. Too many words = confusion. Keep it short and sweet. 
- Vision dollars (like merits/housepoints) are a great incentive. UTILISE!

                 Crafting (3 times a week)

The Grace Period

I'd say it took around three days to fully settle. I learnt the names, the quirks of each child in each class and how to keep it fun. I invented games such as 'Lucky', pulling out names from a hat to win dollars, and group games such as '3,6,9'. The kids made me laugh and vice-versa: they took joy in laughing at my bad drawings and I enjoyed keeping things fun. 
I googled Korean schooling, and I realized how difficult and competitive it is for the students in school. I didn't want to be part of that. It was summer camp and I wanted the kids to have fun. 
The bonds formed quickly and the kids were incredibly loving and affectionate. I loved harnessing the creativity of the children through tasks such as designing '10 Commandment Bricks' and drawing storyboards to demonstrate understanding. 

'Bricks' designed by the students 
There were many days where I'd enter the classroom with random doodles on the board: 

Outside of class, the kids were friendly and sociable. There were occasions where I felt I wasn't sure where to set boundaries with kids grabbing my hands, tickling and cracking jokes. They were energetic, fun and hands on. 

In addition to lesson time, we also did whole group team building activities and 'snack' cooking creations.

The Hard Bits

Working with children isn't without its challenges. I think I got off fairly lucky, as both my classes were relatively well behaved. Some team members commented on rowdy class behaviour which was difficult to control. I did experience my fair share of it, but nothing off the scale bad. There was low key misbehaving such as doodling, standing up to wander and shouting out. 

Before departing for South Korea, I volunteered with City Year London, in an all boys school. In lessons, I used to think Why is it only me that notices the low key bad behaviour? Why isn't the teacher intervening? 
It was then I realised, sometimes it's better to tactically ignore bad behaviour then to disrupt whole class learning. 

One of my most ultimate bugbears, which wasn't even a bad thing, were the words "TEACHER, FINISHED!!" shouted at the top of one's lungs. Pacing a lesson can be difficult with ten students of varying ability. Other little teaching issues also involved:
- The boy/girl divide in B-6. They just didn't want to mix up.
- Screaming! (mostly confined to just the one girl when she won/lost a game!)
- The 1 - 2 kids who fell behind the pace of the class.
- The girl who excelled above all others.
- We worked from a book and we'd often finish the content before the end of the lesson. In that time, I'd have to get creative and invent games, competitions and miscellaneous English topics to cover. 

The English Book we worked through (Christianity themed)

The Last Day

Friday 16th August 2013 was our last day of camp.I didn't know what to expect at all, other then sending the kids off that day. We started off with 'Morning Round-up' as usual that day, before our closing ceremony.

The lights lowered. A video was projected on the screen, highlighting the last two weeks of camp with photos and short scenes. We were called up to the stage to present certificates to our students. Already a number of teachers were getting emotional. I tried to stay calm and aloof: 'crying on stage would be embarrassing', I thought. 

After the certificates, Sara, the head of English, announced that the children had cards and gifts for the teachers. It was in that moment, all the children stood up and began mounting the stage: approaching the teachers bearing presents, cards and giving hugs. I felt a lump rise in my throat and my eyes watered. 
It was the sight of my students in tears that set me off. I appreciated each and every single child in my class so much. Jerry is creative. Kate is diligent. Grace is a gentle soul. Cleo is wise beyond her years. They were all unique in their own little ways. We exchanged hugs and goodbyes.

I left the stage and went to sit with my students. Mina took my hand and said "you will come back". She was silently in tears and it saddened me further: she was the girl in my class who never stopped smiling. Kate sat quietly with her face in her hands. 

Victoria and Mina 
After the kids left for lunch, I looked through the presents and I came across a notebook that Kate made for me. Never before had I received something so lovely, thoughtful and heart-warming:

Kate's Notebook she made for me...

It was only a 2 - 3 week camp, and yet I felt I made some really strong bonds with the kids. With my experience at City Year and in South Korea, I've realised there is so much more to teaching then just conveying information or setting down rules and boundaries. It is about nurturing, and sometimes the best thing you can do for a child is just to give them your attention. Overall, it was a wonderful experience and it's made me realise that I do want to work with kids in the future. 

Presents and cards from the kids

 Trip Tips 

  • This was my first fully funded volunteer trip abroad. I went with 'Global English Mission (GEM)'. They recruit English Teachers every summer for a variety of placements across South Korea.
  • It was a Christian Camp and I'm a atheist. I didn't find it an issue at all and I believe going with a open-mind and having tolerance is absolutely key.
  • The placements are around July - August time and it is very hot and humid. Bring lots of T-shirts and shorts. 
  • Little teaching aids make a big difference. For example, bringing a ball to throw around to answer questions or having name raffles work a treat. 
  • My placement was in Dangjin, about 1.5 hours from Soeul. 
  • The teaching days are from 9:30am to 3:15pm with preparations until 5:30pm. 
  • I stayed with a homestay family who were kind, gracious and incredibly giving. The experience gave a great insight into Korean culture. e.g. fun fact: lots of Korean homes have a dedicated 'kimchi' fridge, because the smell spreads to the rest of the food! 

The volunteer group from the UK and USA, Summer 2013.

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