If you remember our post about the craziness that is Winter Camp, we think you’ll really enjoy our recent Summer English Camp experience.

We have been puzzled by many things in Korea, but none has confused us so much as the Summer Camp preparations.

A long while before things got started, we noticed that many of our married/coupled friends had been sent to separate camps.  This seemed a bit odd and we asked my co-teacher about it.  She said that she had heard from the Office of Education that all known couples were intentionally split so the students would be more of a focus for teachers.  (This is a bit crazy to us since we are in the classrooms for 12 hours per day, excluding meals.)  Since I had not yet changed my last name, they didn’t realize we were married, so we were placed at the same camp.  This was very frustrating to our friends and it’s completely against our culture.  As foreigners, we know that we need to adapt to the Korean ways of life and we accept that.  However, we felt like this was completely against our ways of life and it’s not good for couples to be separated for this long, especially newly weds, as most couples here are.   Everyone raised a bit of a fuss about that and most couples were able to switch to the same camps.

After that, we had to jump through some Korean hoops.

We first were asked to attend a mandatory 5 hour prep meeting 2 months before the camp began.  We were surprised, first by the amount of time they asked for, and then by the fact that the entire meeting was in Korean.  All the foreign teachers left the meeting with about the same amount of information about camp that we came with.

We were given some books and told that we needed to prepare several lesson plans and e-mail them to our assigned Korean co-teacher by the following week.  We’re use to writing lesson plans, so it was no problem.  We were each also given a work book that corresponded to our “Conversation” book and told that we could use those worksheets with our lessons.  That sounded pretty sweet.  Until about a week later.  I turned my lesson plans in 2 days in advance, but received a strange reply.  My co-teacher needed the “worksheet file.”  I wrote back, confused, and said that I didn’t have a file for the worksheets, but since we had the same books, maybe she could just use her own book.  She replied that this wouldn’t work and she needed a file.  I replied that I didn’t have a file because the worksheet didn’t have a CD, and perhaps she could just xerox any worksheets she needed from her own book.  After many back-and-forths about this, she replied that she would expect the file by the following day (Saturday).  I assured her that she would not receive it.  Finally, after speaking to a couple other teachers, all foreign teachers were notified that we were expected to retype all of the worksheets from the pages we needed from the workbooks.  (About 20 pages… many with large corresponding pictures that can’t be typed.)  This was in mind to avoid violating copyright laws that would have been broken by xeroxing the worksheets.  Memo to the Office of Education:  Retyping someone else’s worksheets is still a copyright violation.

After many ups and downs about this from all the foreign teachers, most teachers found a way around it.  I ended up photographing my worksheets and was assured they would be printed for the camp.  Upon reaching camp, I found that my worksheets had not been printed, so they were promptly xeroxed by my co-teacher.  Hmmm.

The next crazy thing came about while we were on vacation in China.  Griffin received an e-mail and immediately started to laugh.  He told me I had to read it because it was unbelievable.  The Office of Education had decided that the students needed to spend as much time as possible with the foreign teachers, so we were being required to bunk with the students in their dorm rooms.  We decided that this needed no reply from us.  We knew that the other foreign teachers would not allow this to proceed.  As we suspected, within the next 24 hours, both of our inboxes were flooded with replies to this requirement.  Some gave reasons why this would not work, others simply stated that it was uncomfortable.  Everyone flat out refused to do it.  This requirement was rescinded with a couple of days.

We’ve often wondered why the Office of Education doesn’t have at least one foreign teacher they contact when they are thinking of sending out e-mails/requirements like those above.  It seems they could save a lot of time and energy if someone told them it would never fly.

Once camp got started, everything sailed pretty smoothly.  We love camps because the class sizes are around 16 students… down from our normal 36 students per class.  With this number of students, it’s easier to teach, play and get to know the students over the course of the 3 week intensive camp.

The college campus where we stayed is new and really beautiful.  We enjoyed getting to benefit from the electronics placed in the classrooms that made life easier and more complicated at the same time.  The university that hosted us is home to students studying Science and Technology and the campus has only been around for about 3 years.  Unfortunately, it is in the middle of nowhere, literally surrounded by rice fields.  It was kind of nice to get away.

We enjoyed our students and found that teaching elementary students is much easier than middle schoolers.  My camp students operate on much higher level of English than my regular middle school kids.

We were pretty surprised at the amount of information these kids are forced to take in in such a short amount of time.  Each class studied several lessons per day on each of the the topics of  vocabulary, conversation, listening and grammar.  During only a 3 week period, the students learned an average of 500 vocabulary words!  I won’t ask if they still remember!

We enjoy camp, but could do without the pre-camp “festivities.”