Monday, March 2, 2009

New Foreign English Teachers in Korean Public Schools--Summer and Winter Camps Checklist

The information below is from a selection of writings in an orientation program I wrote and put together.

I think I've covered a lot about what a new teacher needs to know in general about English camps in Korea . . . and another post I'll do in a month or two will have my favorite teaching books that I've used for elementary, middle, and high school camps that I've taught at in the past.

And again, if you copy this and use it please cite the source: Jason Ryan.

Summer and Winter Camps

The first thing native English teachers need to know about the word "camp" in Korea is that it usually is just more classes--period. Sometimes games and fun activities are on the schedule, but there is still a bias against these as being a 'waste of time' in the general cultural attitudes of parents and Korean teachers. The typical camp in Korea should really be called 'summer school' with a twist.

Some foreign teachers make a lot of money doing camps, some make a little, some make terrible pay, and others are forced to do day camps during the regular teaching hours during the summer break as part of the 22 classes per week contract but are not given a co-teacher to work with in spite of that being in the contract too . . . the range of differences in teaching English summer and winter camps is so great that the biggest thing is to just try and 'go with the flow' . . .

Your typical Day Camp (summer or winter) seems to involve about 4 classes a day over a five day period, and sometimes up to two weeks. They can involve extra pay, or you may just be paid your salary.

Overnight camps are a whole different ball game, and I've written a check list of things you need to think about and prepare for below.

Be prepared to be asked by whoever your co-teacher is to edit an opening ceremonies speech, and later a closing ceremonies speech, with very little time to do so. It may even be on the bus on the way to the camp.

It is a good idea to ask your co-teacher at least ONE MONTH before the end of a semester about when and how many camps are being planned that involve you. And expect that the dates and work load/teaching load you're told may, and likely will, change several times, and even then the final details may not be in line with what you have been told.

A. Find out the dates of the camp
B. How many classes per day, how many students per class, what level in a class (and if it is mixed levels of students, i.e. grades 1 and 2)
C. What classroom will be used, what equipment is available
D. Heat during the winter, and air conditioning during the summer; watch out for heat during the winter—will the school custodian be around to turn it on, and to fix it if there are problems, and same thing for the summer with air conditioning
E. Will you have a co-teacher?? (This seems to be a sometimes yes, sometimes no thing)
F. Cold drinking water availability for students during the summer
G. Food and snacks availability for students
H. Field trips during a camp: outside conditions, temperatures, do students have proper clothing (hats and water bottles), etc
I. There may be times where schedules fall a part, and you are asked/expected to be able to fill in 20, 30, or even up to 60 minutes of time with activities, games, and songs for the students while they are waiting (for whatever was 'supposed to happen'). Come to camp with some songs, games, and activities that require little or no preparation time, and little or no supplies to do with the students; be prepared to be asked to do this at any time with no warning.
Overnight camps:
a) What kind of beds? Western style bed, or Korean traditional sleeping mat?
b) Air conditioning? Or fans only?
c) How many classes per day?
d) How many activities and events, on top of the classes you teach, will you be expected to participate in? What kind of participation will be asked of you (i.e. A: "Jason, oh yeah, uhm, we know you just taught 8 classes today, but we also need you to lead the games and activities scheduled for the students tonight"B: "Okay, what did you have planned?" A: "Oh, uhm, you can think of something, right?")
e) Length of break time between classes? Rest/spares for preparation of lesson materials, and to just rest?
f) Class size?
g) Mixed levels of students in same class?
h) When will you be paid?
i) Who is responsible for preparing any and all materials for every single class and event throughout the camp?
j) Transportation to and from the camp—who pays for it? How long will it take?
k) Classroom conditions: equipment available, who is there to set it up, explain how it works, unlock it if need be, etc
l) Has the director and or your co-teacher actually been to the camp site to confirm information and details you are being given?
m) Assume your presence will be required at EVERY event on the camp schedule unless told otherwise—I looked at my first camp schedule in Korea, and thought, wow, only four classes a day—that’ll be easy—and then realized at the camp that I was expected to be involved in about 11 hours worth of classes (other things on my schedule weren't called "classes" but in reality were) and events EACH DAY . . . ask questions, and be informed. Don’t be afraid to say when you’ve hit your limit when it can jeopardize your health, and also if it is exhausting you beyond what is reasonable to ask you to do each day and still be an effective teacher.
n) consider taking a small fan with you if there is no air conditioning, and you don't know what kind of quality the fans are that are in the rooms at the camp (I've actually done this, I put one in my suitcase, lol)
o) Take mosquito coils and repellent with you
p) Consider bringing cleaning supplies with you if you are a "clean-freak" as you may not be happy with the state of your room, and there may not be any cleaning chemicals or clean cleaning tools to use in the building, or on the camp grounds. You also, unfortunately, cannot rely on your co-teacher promising that the rooms will be cleaned before you arrive to the camp. The standards of cleanliness and the methods used may not be similar to what are used in your home country.


Brian said...

For the sensitive, consider what kind of breakfast is offered if it's an overnight camp. This January everyone just brought cereal and fruit with them because they weren't about to handle kimchi and fish soup at 8:00 am.

Jason said...

Good one--I know that 'everything' wasn't on the checklist--but that's a really really big issue for many foreign teachers, especially newbies.

Thanks Brian,