Winter Camp started immediately after we returned from Beijing. We were not ready for it! Although, we were aware of how many hours we would work and how long the days were going to be, we still needed a vacation after vacation. Instead, we were overwhelmed with three weeks of 12-hour days and what we thought would be chaos. The first day was a total disaster. None of the native English teachers or the Korean teachers knew where to go at what time, even with the “schedule.” But, after a day or two, everything was on track and we loved the students. Randy and I teach at middle schools, where the students are just too cool for school. Teaching fifth grade students at winter camp was such a blessing and gave me more of a desire to teach. The kids were so smart and motivated, even the low level students. There were about 300 students and 44 teachers, including native English and Korean teachers. The students were split into two levels, higher (A) and lower (B). There were 22 classes and my homeroom class ranked 20 out of 22. But that didn’t matter. They were still super smart and motivated!
The first week, we were required to teach our students a song and they were required to perform the song at the song festival in front of all of the other students! The students performed “Lemon Tree,” “Perhaps,” “Upside Down,” “Don’t Stop Believing” and more. I taught my students “I Gotta Feeling,” by the Black Eyed Peas. We made up a dance and the students had a blast. It was really rewarding to see the students have fun on stage and my class won fourth place!
During the second week, we helped the students prepare for a debate. Debate is a regular class that some students hate. But I had the ‘smarter’ (A Team) students for debate, so it seemed like the students liked it more because they are able to speak English more. Some of the topics were good, such as “Do you agree or disagree with cosmetic surgery?” Some topics were relevant and fun to talk about for the students, such as the Jaebeom Controversy, in which the lead singer of a famous K-Pop band, 2PM, left to go back to America because he was ashamed of what he said about Korea when he first arrived. He said that “Korea is gay.” But as he learned more about Korea, he took back what he said, but was still regretful.
But some topics were ridiculous, such as “Do you agree or disagree that short men are losers?” This was just timely because there was of a TV show about a college student who gave her opinion that she wouldn’t date a guy under 5 feet 11 inches. Click here for more about this. This was the topic that my students had to debate. They were required to argue that they agree that “short men are losers.” It’s really horrible that we were required to talk about this. We just had to explain to the students that it’s just a debate that we were required to do and that it does not have to be their actual opinion. The students don’t even debate about topics in Korean, but I think the MOE (Ministry of Education) requires a debate in English just to get the students speaking, which is a good idea, but I think they should have more relevant topics that don’t degrade people. But, my class won the argument and went on to the second round. Although my class didn’t win during the final round, Randy’s class won first place among Team A!
On the last week of camp, the students had to perform a drama. This was the time to let the students shine. At first they were hesitant and shy to act, but after they saw my Korean co-teacher and I acting silly as well, they got excited and more into the acting. Our class performed “Hansel and Gretel.” Watch the video below. They won third place in the competition! It was really great to see the students do their best and very rewarding to see them so happy about it. Also, it was the last night of camp, so we started to say our goodbyes to the students who we had become close to.
Although winter camp consisted of long days and lots of teaching, the weeks went by fast and the students made the time enjoyable. “Hi, Shauna Teacher!” “Hi, Randy Teacher!” “Teacher, Randy’s girlfriend?” “Sticker chusayo (please)!” My teaching skills improved, even though we taught younger students. I learned how to build a better relationship with students and how to teach better with a co-teacher. The long days and lovable children were worth it.