I am going to be honest here. When MediaKids told me that I would be required to sacrifice a precious Sunday in favor of helping out at a local English Camp, I was exhausted at the very thought.
I am no stranger to long hours and hard work. At my previous job in America, I worked for a small non-profit organization that didn’t understand the concept of ‘off-duty.’ When becoming a teacher, I knew I was in for a heavy workload. I fully expected to be a bit harried at first, but I’ll admit that I underestimated the energy it really takes to be a good teacher. The massive effort that these professionals put forth every.single.day. in support of their student’s education is admirable and underappreciated.
Suffice it to say, I had been using both of my weekend days up until this point to recover from a work week at school that left me feeling sleep deprived and weak. Sure, I also spent the time ruminating over the amazing students I was privileged to work with and basking in the joy of hard work and time well spent. But, I was drained. I felt like I needed every second of the weekend to recharge my depleted batteries.
The morning of Camp, I hit up my favorite coffee shop and then met up with my friend Mackenzie, who was also working English Camp and is a teacher at Anuban Nangrong, where the camp was taking place. We rode our bikes over and walked into the noisy auditorium, brimming with controlled chaos. I changed into my very cute and very free t-shirt, provided by MediaKids, and after some words of introduction by the faculty and school director, it was show-time.
The MC for the day was a MediaKids facilitator named PeeJay. He hopped on the mic and immediately formed a connection with the crowd of 150 9-12-year old students. He was confident and full of energy and the kids responded very well to him. Really, your whole experience with English Camp will depend the competence of your MC, the attitude of your co-teachers and, most importantly, the energy that you bring to the table.
That’s why my #1 tip for surviving English Camp is…
1. Put Your Heart Into It!
Yes, I was mildly cranky about having to work on a Sunday, but that all melted away as soon as I saw the eager faces of the students we were lucky enough to spend the day with. This is a really big deal for them! Mackenzie told me that these students were selected to attend Camp by their teachers, because they were the best in their classes. The confidence that they might gain from being selected and having a positive experience at Camp could encourage them to continue studying English and affect the course of their entire life! If you take that cause to heart and exude positivity, good energy and enthusiasm in everything you do, it is possible to make a real difference in just one day.
2. Tip #2: Dress to Impress, More or Less
In any situation where you are meeting Thai people for the first time, you should ensure that you look polished. Your hair should be well-kempt, your teeth brushed, you should be showered and smelling fresh. Do not, however, feel like you have to follow the example set by the Thai teachers and wear skirts and heels! English Camp is a dance-fest, game-day, up-and-at-em, 8 hour marathon. You’re going to want to wear comfortable shoes! Also, it is okay to wear jeans and your English Camp t-shirt, and to dress more informally here than when you are teaching. We want the students to let their guards down and to feel like they can make mistakes without fear of reprisal. Dressing more casually helps to set the stage for this.
3. Tip #3: Eat the Snacks
Although I am not much of breakfast person and thought that I could subsist on coffee alone until lunchtime, soon after our second dance number, the peel banana song, I scarfed down the rice balls that the school provided and later found that this energy was much needed. The students will keep your heart pumping and your brain working, but you’ll need food energy so that your body can keep up!
Most of the morning at English Camp is spent doing songs or games that emphasize speaking and listening skills with everyone in a big group. It’s important for the teachers to actively move around the room to keep every student engaged. Don’t be shy! The kids adore you and will feed off of whatever energy you are putting out. After lunch, we broke off up into 6 different stations and the students rotated around doing activities that emphasized reading and writing skills. My activity station was a word search, which obviously is not as exciting as singing songs, learning dances and playing games! You really have to retain that energy and hype it up so that the students remain engaged.
The final activity of the day was the most memorable – The Powder Game. I don’t want to say too much about this game, as it’s fun to experience on your own without knowing what is going to happen. My friends who had done English Camps before withheld that information from me and I was glad they did, as it was a fun surprise at the end of a long day. I will, however, leave you with these photos and you can deduct what you will from them. After the game was over, I hung around the gym taking pictures and talking to all of the new friends I made that day, both students and other teachers. All-in-all, it was an incredibly rewarding and unforgettable day. Even after this exhausting day, I felt motivated and ready to tackle my week at school. I am already looking forward to the next English Camp!
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