This is long overdue but better late than never. I left Korea about 2 weeks ago so here’s my attempt at re-capping Elementary School camp. The final week of travel will come later.
Arriving back at Wando after our mini-vacation was a little weird. After 2 weeks in Korea, it seemed like we were constantly in a new place and a new situation not knowing at all what to expect. It was a little strange to be back to a familiar place and sort of know what to expect. We met the new staff for the elementary camp and quickly realized that communication would be much harder this time around. Our go-between guy with the Korean administrators didn’t seem like he would advocate as much for us as the guy from middle school and he didn’t seem like he really knew his job description, if he was even given one. Also the Korean administrators spoke hardly ANY English. The head teacher seemed like he wanted to go to English camp more than the kids. He told us his English name was Ssingsong, that’s right…with 2 s’s. (*Ssingsong stories below) It was a REALLY good thing we’d already done a week of camp so we knew what we were doing.
I got class 4 for elementary camp, class 1 was the lowest and 12 the highest. I think my kids were pretty smart for their age. There were a few who were way behind the others but overall they seemed pretty engaged. Communication with the kids in general was a lot harder than for middle school. For example, one of the cutest little girls in class 1 hardly knew the alphabet. Most of the Americans agreed that we got closer with the middle school kids just because they could communicate more. There was a lot more Korean in the classroom which was hard for me at first but I realized it was necessary. I would explain a game in English and then my co-teacher would explain in Korean. My elementary lesson was Clothing which was actually really fun. I had met my co-teacher last fall when she studied at Mizzou. Her English was excellent and we made the lessons pretty exciting for the kids. Some of the vocab was really strange though, maybe because the curriculum was written by Canadians or just because they use different words for things in Korea? I’m not sure. For example, what we call a ‘head band’ was a ‘hair band’ and ‘sandals’ were ‘slippers’. Also apparently a beanie was important enough to include in the list of vocabulary. For our first lesson we went over vocab, did a matching worksheet then ended with a game called “Change seats if you are wearing____” which the kids really liked. Second lesson were more games and worksheets about clothing and seasons, and the third lesson was drawing a model and coloring and labeling its clothes.
My co-teacher, J-LO
Class 4, My Homeroom
Group activities for camp included a huge team relay, team Rock, Paper, Scissors, a movie night, Golden Bell, and Camp Idol. Golden Bell is a really popular game show in Korea so we recreated it with questions from each lesson. My class captain, Maddie, got 2nd place out of the 150+ kids! I was soo proud of her…I took so many pictures. I felt like a mom. For Camp Idol, each class chose an English song to memorize and perform for the entire camp. My class sang Heal The World by Michael Jackson. They’d never heard of Michael Jackson so it was cool to introduce them to a new singer. We memorized most of the words and a little dance for it. By the end of the week the teachers had memorized each class’s song. During break time with each class we would play their song over and over. All the teachers were singing the songs in the teacher’s lounge, in our rooms at night, in the hallways. All the songs were stuck in our head the entire week. On the final night, each class performed their song and dance. It was soo much easier for the teachers than the skits we had to do for middle school camp…a lot less work.
Remnants of 150 Kids
Overall, the elementary camp went great. The most challenging part by far was communicating with anyone. We could communicate with our Korean co-teachers just fine but the head staff was a different story. It seemed like they expected things that weren’t communicated and then were offended when it wasn’t done. Example: after snacks one night, I took the basket of trash back to the teacher’s lounge. One of the administrators asked me why I didn’t have the class captain bring it down. I apologized and said I had let them leave and forgotten to ask her to bring it downstairs. I went to empty the trash and bring the basket back and he asked me AGAIN why I had forgotten to have her bring it down. I apologized AGAIN and said no one had communicated that we were supposed to have the captain bring it down. He seemed really offended and I was pissed that he kept asking me. It didn’t seem like a big deal at all since the trash was being taken care of by someone but he insisted that the class captain be the one to do it. It was definitely a lesson in cross-cultural communication for me, always trying to be polite and inoffensive to very traditionally-minded people of a completely different culture while not knowing what the hell was going on.
After the kids went to bed on the last night, the administrators had a good-bye party for all of us. We of course had fried chicken and beer along with some other snack foods. After lots of picture taking and craziness, all the co-teachers went to the auditorium for karaoke. We all danced and sang our Camp Idol songs til around 2 in the morning. It was a fantastic last night at camp. 🙂
The last morning we packed up, cleaned our rooms, and had a closing ceremony. There weren’t as many tearful goodbyes from the kids as there were for middle school camp but it was sad for the teachers since we knew we wouldn’t be coming back for another camp. We loaded up the buses and bid farewell to the mountains and stunning view we had gotten used to. I’ve said this before but it is such a weird/sad feeling to leave somewhere where you’ve had so many good memories and not know whether you’ll ever be there again in your lifetime. Although I was completely exhausted by the end of camp, I truly had one of the best experiences. I noticed after we were back with all the people from the other camps how close our camp had gotten. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we were on a mountain and couldn’t leave and the nearest village was a mile walk. We had so much fun at night after the kids went to bed just hanging out. Its hard to describe how we all felt leaving each other. Our co-teachers left us in Yeongam (I think). It started to rain very fittingly and we said our tearful goodbyes.
*Ssingsong stories: He was just a weird man, I think he might have had a mental problem. Even the Korean co-teachers said they couldn’t really understand his Korean. If he wanted you to do something, he would mumble and look at you. He was reallly loud during camp activities and would give the kids the answer to questions for Golden Bell, etc. He wore his shirt tucked in and his shorts well above where they be. During Camp Idol, he did a little jig similar to Irish Dancing which the guys mocked of course. Someone found a snake in the pool and he went down there with a stick and dustpan, did some snake charmer business and then threw the snake at one of the Americans. AND his name was Ssingsong…come on!