THE UPS, DOWNS, AND IN BETWEENS

I can’t believe my third semester of teaching English in South Korea is almost over. And in just a few weeks I’ll be facilitating the third English camp I’ll have been a part of at my elementary school. The last two English camps have included some of best teaching moments I’ve had in Korea. However, preparing for an English camp is a ton of work.

Instead of the usual two weeks of English camp, this time we’ve been asked to do three. The extra week will give first and second graders a chance to be introduced to English. I’m excited and a little nervous since it’ll be my first time teaching the first and second graders.

We’ve had an overwhelming amount of children sign up, but I refuse to take more than 20 per session. Although it’s hard to see some of my students disappointed, I’d rather make English camp something special as opposed to being the same as a regular class of around 40 kids.

With a head start on the planning process, a general outline for lessons is complete. Our budget was approved, and almost all the shopping for materials is finished. It feels good to be ahead for once, although lots of stress, frustration, and miscommunication resulted.

I never really know what’s going on at school until someone tells me. I have to rely on my co-teachers to translate everything, which means things aren’t always communicated clearly (or at all). Being asked for my English camp lesson plans the day before they were due caused a lot of unnecessary tension for all involved.

Chances are my co-teachers were also bombarded by this sudden deadline. It’s an aspect of Korean culture many foreign teachers struggle with. Thankfully I’ve been here long enough to know how to handle these situations with a smile; however, I do believe such unrealistic demands foster inefficiency and inaccuracy in the workplace.

Tension has since subsided, but not without some lessons learned. I understand it’s been a busy semester for all of us, but clear communication is key. Asking for an extension isn’t a big deal when you’re left with no other choice.

I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead, even though there’s still so much be done. Getting a head start doesn’t mean I won’t be preparing until the last minute. Somehow I have to finish the semester, put together an entire three-week English camp, and celebrate Christmas within the next two weeks. This is the life I get to live, and I kind of sort of (as in really) love it.

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