It’s the final exam period at my high school and all the guys are doing tests until 11:40am.  They then go home or to hogwan (cram schools) to study and get ready for the next day of testing.  If memory serves the exams run till Wednesday or Thursday of next week.

Since I have no classes I’ve been sitting at the desk computer in my classroom working on some summer camp lessons, reading, and enjoying the peace and quiet of the school in general because during testing periods the cacophony of high school boys letting off steam in between classes is missing–oh joy oh bliss!

If you’re prepping for summer English camps you might want to check out this post, English Camps in South Korea – A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers.

Last winter break I went all out and prepared what I thought was a kick-ass 2 week program of English camp materials.  I reworked a series of lessons I’ve made about how to write a paragraph in English, how to write a ‘hamburger’ essay, some English culture lessons, and mixed in a few ‘fun’ game/activity lessons . . . the first two week camp with 26 students responded fairly well to the lessons I’d set up, but the second group at the second camp was a nightmare.  The reason I am putting the links to the blogging I did is to give an idea of what can happen to a native teacher even after doing tons of prep, and having tons of experience teaching English camps . . .

Winter English Camp in South Korea: Camp #2, Day 1 — My Teaching Nightmare Becomes Reality: Zombie Student Attack!!!

Winter English Camp in South Korea: Camp #2, Day 1 — Lesson prep in Korea is the Achilles Heel of EFL teaching

Winter English Camp in South Korea #2, Day 2: The Zombies Return . . . and not even the power of kimchi ice-cream can wake the undead! (See pictures of kimchi ice-cream here!)

I decided that I am NOT going to do an academic style English camp for my summer camp–err, I mean classes.  It’s just not worth the time and energy to prep the materials when the guys will all be burned out from just finishing the semester, and then they have to attend classes all through the summer ‘break’ . . . for newbie teachers coming to Korea or already here, you should know that “camp” and “break” or “vacation” do NOT have the same meanings in Korea as they do back home.

Also, students are given homework assignments by their homeroom Korean teachers that they have to do over the winter and summer ‘breaks’ (seriously? Can you imagine the reactions from North American students to something like that if they tried to do it? LOL!); students are enrolled in hogwan (cram schools) summer/winter programs, or they are enrolled in summer/winter classes at their schools (mistakenly called ‘camps’).

Some native teachers will find themselves being asked to work at overnight English camps held at training centers located in more rural areas outside the cities in Korea.  If you agree to do one of these camps I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you read my English Camps in South Korea – A Guideline for Foreign English Teachers cause there will be stuff you cannot even imagine that will go on that you need to prep for.

At one over night summer camp I did in 2005 Korean teachers would ask the native teachers with NO WARNING to do something with the students for 30 minutes to an hour because of poor scheduling and some dead time that unexpectedly appeared . . . or a period on the schedule that a Korean teacher was supposed to do but they somehow con a newbie into agreeing to do for them . . . having easy ready to go songs, games, or simple activities in your head for these situations can really help if you agree to doing them.  That’s just one of many things newbies can’t possibly anticipate when they’re thinking about doing these kinds of camps.

Also check out this post, New Foreign English Teachers in Korean Public Schools–Summer and Winter Camps Checklist

Here’s an excerpt from the link,

“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.”

Oh, another thing for newbie native teachers: there are technically NO LIMITS to how many English day camps you can be asked to teach as long as they do not exceed your contract 22 classes per week (and they’re not overnight camps).  I’ve gotten several emails from 1st contract in Korea newbie teachers asking about this, and in some cases newbies are outraged that they’re being asked to do ‘more than my friends at other schools’ . . . I wish they’d consider that they could be back in their old retail jobs in a shopping mall doing open to close 12 hour shifts for shitty pay and all the other crap most of us have had to deal with in other jobs before, during, and just after finishing university . . .

Native teachers vacations during the summer and winter breaks always take a backseat to the school’s schedule and camp priorities.  This makes things insane for native teachers trying to book plane tickets, paying for them (get the insurance that allows you to change the dates!), and trying to make any kind of plans with friends and family to see them during the vacation.  Schools generally don’t know when the camp dates will be until almost the last week of the semester, and even then it might be after that . . . yeah.

Here’s an excerpt of something I once wrote to a teacher asking me about her vacation days, re-signing bonus two weeks (you get two weeks of home leave between contracts–though you may not be able to take that time BETWEEN contracts) . . .

“I checked our contracts to make sure about the re-signing two week bonus and it says,

‘Article 10, Item 2.  In the case of renewal of this Contract pursuant to the foregoing Section 1, Employee shall be given two week paid leave for a home visit which shall take place 2 calendar weeks prior to the last day of the Contract specified in Article 5 hereof until the day immediately preceding the commencement of the renewed term. However, head of work place, due to condition of work place, may delay the visit to use the paid leave, upon agreement with the Employee.’

I wouldn’t pay any attention to the last part of the clause, ‘upon agreement with the Employee.’, because the reality is things are not contingent upon our ‘approval.’  Whatever the principal wants is usually what happens.

That being said, if it’s a really big deal to you then you can try to ‘fight’ this, and I mean POLITELY and diplomatically push for what you want as hard as possible with the powers that be in your school.

As for winter and summer camps there are no fixed limits for them as long as the classes per week do not exceed your contract 22 maximum.  If your school organizes day camps throughout the entire summer break they can do that as long as during the winter break they give you the vacation time you are owed.  If you sign on for a second contract and then have the two contracts overlapping onto each other in terms of vacation time then things get messy in terms of getting all the vacation time that is owed to you.

The contract, though, says,

‘1. Employee shall be entitled to a vacation period of 21 workdays in total during the Term of the Employment set forth in Article 5 hereof. If the requested vacation period interferes with regular school schedule or smooth work operations (e.g. English campsoperated by the district offices or schools, school reopening schedules after the breaks), employer/employee may alternate vacation dates. “
This clause basically gives the school carte blanche to say when you can or can’t take your vacation and re-signing bonus two weeks.  I’ve run into this kind of bs situation before and unfortunately in spite of trying diplomacy, politeness, and frequent discussions nothing changed in my favor.  I ended up having to just face the fact that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted because the school’s agenda always supersedes my own.'”Anyways, all that aside I’m planning on doing a CSI-style acting and script writing theme camp where they guys will . . .

– watch one episode of CSI, use that as a model

– a lecture about the CSI genre and the basic narrative structure

– decide how many scenes we’ll do

– decide what roles each student will take in the process

– I’ll teach them common expressions used in the show

– script writing sessions

– filming the scenes

– editing the video

– watch the video

– end of camp party

It’ll be interesting to see how it all works out. I’ve done lessons before where I had students make 1 minute TV commercials and we then videoed them and it was great.  There are tons of things that a native teacher can focus on: pronunciation, intonation, gestures, idioms, storytelling, script writing, cultural background info, and more.  Often the problem I run into is keeping it simple enough and not setting up too much content for the students to learn, and giving them enough time to prepare and practice and then perform the commercial.

I guess I’ll close with suggesting that native teachers might want to focus on making their camps extremely student-centered, task-based/project-based, and allowing for a lot of ‘guided’ free time wherein the students can be creative, learn through exploring different topics and activities, and in general actually have some FUN while learning and using English.

If my students give me permission I’ll post the video we make . . . keep your fingers crossed cause I think it’ll be very funny!