English Summer Camp in Korea: From the Monster World

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It’s the second day of English Summer Camp at my school and woof!

Teaching six classes a day takes energy and my students nearly killed me on day one…

Unlike the previous camp, my Superhero lesson was annihilated. It’s probably a lot worse in my mind than it was, but I definitely did not create superheroes– I felt like I farmed monsters! Mostly, it was the first day of camp, some kids didn’t want to be there, they had a longer than usual school day AND only one KT (Korean Teacher) co-teacher stayed with her class to offer support to the NETs (she was my 4th grade CT, who always rocks her 110%)!

The rest of the KTs left as soon as class started, leaving NETs to fend for their own survival translations and giving the kids permission to be … challenging.

This was the first time I felt disgusted with everything— with teaching, with my own students, definitely the camps’ KT/CTs and my school. It had kicked the life out of me. I was offended that the NETs got no support from my own school’s KTs and I wished I had laser beam eyes to zap some of my kids!

Worst of all, this was my school… the monster school.

Perhaps my Superhero camp, its advanced students and diligent KT/CTs spoiled me. Maybe I didn’t know how bad my school really was before… now.

Notes from the English Summer Camp  Monster Factory:

1.  Sometimes, you don’t see a monster, until you create it.

Today was my second day and I resorted to something I don’t like to train students with– candy. Bad idea. While it got enthusiastic participation from my students (what I wanted),  it also created begging (what I didn’t want). This cut into class time as something I occasionally had to squelch.  Furthermore, I realized my lesson– My Pet Monster (Feelings) would’ve been fine without it.

2.  Some monsters are good to let out.

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only NET to complain to my main CT about not receiving help from the KTs; and today, we got that inch of support from the KTs to make our day run smoother.  More KTs either stayed in (or occasionally checked in on) the classes and that was a great help.

3.  Sometimes, other peoples’ monsters spread deadly dis-eases.

While it’s probable that KT’s don’t know their actual role in a an English Summer Camp situation or may feel shy about a lack of English skills. Nevertheless, we have a majority of 3rd-4th graders attending camp, as well as government-funded low-income students. Leaving classes unsupported is a double-edged sword that kills students, NETs and confidence levels all around! Not to mention, student safety and liability.

4.  It’s important to recognize the obvious potential for monsters to get out of control.

When I was a kid, having a substitute teacher signaled playtime to me.  Likewise, students often think of NETs as substitute teachers or play teachers–  not their real teacher/punisher. Without a KT present in class, kids will test that boundary.  Thus, there’s nothing an NET can do but work on classroom management skills and this can feel harder than the actual teaching. With ESL it’s hard for obvious reason. I’ve been slowly learning tricks along the way; still, it never feels like enough.

5. Superheroes save monsters as well as teachers; but sometimes, even superheroes have bad days.

There are times I rely on the Superheroes of my class to save the class from turning into a Monster. The participation of your smart students definitely helps get you out of a tight spot; they help balance the class. When your smart ones lack motivation, the class can easily topple. Yesterday, in a  couple of classes, my smart kids were unmotivated to work. Hell, it’s summer vacation and they’re stuck at school! I get it. But it didn’t help…

Monsters vs. Superheroes

As I said above, my lesson probably didn’t need candy bribery.

Surprisingly (and not), my students were more receptive to the My Pet Monster lessons on Feelings, even if it was a review for them. Being at a lower skill level than the kids at my Superhero camp, my little Monsters enjoyed this lesson because they knew the subject. Confidence unlocks creativity and open thinking; and with that, monsters can transform into super beings, comprehending more profound things than you’d expect (a kind of Shrek like phenomena).

Warm-up drawing activity:

Draw a circle & ask students to volunteer to draw the emotion. Objective is to elaborate on the emotion, making it “more… (angry, sad, etc…)”.  They can “add” to the picture,  but not erase.  First drawing is done in red marker to show how the emotion started off & the rest are add-ons of various students. In the end, they see one way an emotion becomes a monster. One of my tiniest & cutest 3rd graders ironically drew the first biggest & scariest Angry face of all the grades put together! You can see it in the picture above. Her drawing is in red.

Yes, feelings can seem simple up front — i.e. I feel sad, happy, etc-– until you look deeper at how we never experience just one emotion and this creates a monster. The Monster lesson actually held more profound ideas; meanwhile, my Superhero actions just taught action verbs.  Still, I’ll find out how much they learned tomorrow when I have them do mini-books and see what they choose!

One of my 3rd grade students at the board
A 6th grade class (not as strong as my 3rd graders)

The Emos of Feeling  >:-|

Lastly, I had Emo success! Emoticons are translated in Korean as emoticons and I was relieved when some of my smarter students (the ones who were bored with my Superhero lesson) recognized this and whipped out their phones to try some of them! Sometimes children  :-O (surprise) you– you never know what will work!

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Avatar
    Laura Cancun
    July 30, 2010 3:10 pm

    Your class sounds like so much fun!!!

    I’m glad you finally got the support you needed, even if it was a little late 🙂

  • kids… so unpredictable. I think we all have a little/big monster and a super hero hiding inside of us.

    It sounds like you invested a lot of energy into some quality lesson planning and should feel good about that.

    As I was reading this post I couldn’t help but notice your clever use of metaphors. I shall now refer to you as Christine Confucius. You are wise:)

    • @Chance: Thanks for the metaphor catch =-) though I’m hardly a Confucius! A month later when I look back on it all, I’m sure I’ll feel good about having invested in quality lesson planning. Right now though, if the kids don’t respond to it, then it feels like quality-schmality. LOL. Kids are definitely unpredictable. I think that’s the only thing you can predict!
      @Laura: Yes, the support really helps especially with the younger kids. The lesson really can’t move very far if the kids don’t understand the directions or what they have to do. The final day, I definitely needed CT help. so I had a CT of mine write a letter to show the KTs, just in case some of them wanted to duck out of class!


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