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Teaching Tuesdays: The Kids of Dangsan Winter Camp

January 26, 2010

I had such fun with my Dangsan Winter Camp students that I figured I’d do a little introduction / anecdote type post about them. I feel like if I was living in America right now I’d be facing imminent lawsuits just for thinking about putting pictures of my students up on the internet, but since I am not living in America I’ll just say… nyah nyah, can’t get me!

I had 14 students in the class, some with much more spunk than others, but all of whom were, pretty clearly, vastly superior to all of my middle school students, who just… don’t… give a damn. The great thing about winter camp is the classes are small enough to manage effectively and you see the same kids all the time. And another huge perk is actually having names for your kids. It is an impossible task to give 572 different kids unique names in the ordinary school year — and generally you will have this many students or more because you only teach each class once or twice a week and classes are often up to 40 students in size. And its even more impossible to try to read each student’s Korean name off a class list or name tags as you conduct a normal class, much less remember them.

So I had it good. These are a few of my old students, in alphabetical order:

Elven: Elven had a funny way of leaping into the air every time he raised his hand to answer a question, as if he was making a slam dunk, which makes me wonder if Michael Jordan did the same as a child. I don’t know if “Elven” is a real name. I think it is an adjective. Meaning “elf-like.”

Hugh: Every time there was an activity or a lunch break, Hugh would walk straight up to me, glare and cock his head like an angry dog and try to run into me. I never figured out why.

Jack: Jack was fond of finishing all of the exercises in the book before we did them just so he could shout “I’m finished!” when I assigned one to the class.

Jason: One of the kids that would always try to talk to me during breaks, Jason was super confident about his English speaking. While this generally made him a really strong student, it also occasionally made him a really brilliant smart ass, because he knew how to question the 10 class rules I made up like “No talking” by refusing to talk or to call me out for talking myself. I cheated and made up a rule 11 — “The teacher is always right” — to win this battle of wits.

Joe: Half my teaching struggle with the Dangsan class was teaching Joe how to sit down. One of the younger kids in the class, he took a great fancy to standing up mid-class, wandering up to me while I was explaining something, pulling on my shirt and slurring “Teachyuur!!” peremptorily. When asked why, he would cackle and run back to his seat.

Kathy: The winner of the “Best Speaker” award in class, Kathy put her speaking skills to good use by galloping around and shouting “Handsome teacher!” or “My name is Pretty Kathy” during breaks. She was one of the more creative phrase makers, and in a how-to-write-an-invitation activity she began her letter to Big Bang, 2 PM, Lee Hyori, President Obama, Rain and 8 other Korean celebrities with “Hey yo what up my baby.” I will die a happy man when President Obama actually gets a letter that begins “Hey yo what up my baby.”

Kelly: I instituted a rule that students that helped me pass out books, name tags and worksheet folders would get more credit (in the form of stickers) towards winning candy for participation that day. Kelly gradually muscled her way into a mini-monopoly on the practice by hastily passing out all three items before anyone else had a chance to sit down or volunteer in the morning, then would run up to me and demand I give her the stickers.

Kevin: Kevin always emphatically greeted me any time I would pass from one classroom to another, even when I had already seen him that day or if he was in one of the other two teachers classrooms for activity sessions. Never sickening of the cult of celebrity for native-speaking English teachers, I’d always take the opportunity of his greeting to do a little flourish for the crowd before passing on to the next room.

Simon: Simon told me on the third day that he was going on a ski trip and wouldn’t be in the next day, then disappeared completely. I told the class that he probably wasn’t coming back when they asked me about his continued absence and Kathy welcomed the news with “Good, he looks like gorilla.” I did my duty as a teacher and pointed out that she should have said ‘a gorilla.’

Stella: A good speaker and worker but never bothered to raise her hand. Nevertheless, when it would come time to deal out candy at the end of each day for participation, Stella always relished accusing me of sinister favoritism towards the day’s candy-winner with “Jesse-teacher loves <insert name here>,” especially if the student in question was a girl. She also wore Guinness or Harley-Davidson t-shirts every other day.

Tom: Tom’s perpetual lateness lead to my extemporaneous introduction of the jumping jack rule — for every minute late to class, one jumping jack. Tom accumulated about 70-some jumping jacks by the end of the camp.

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One Comment
  1. Melissa permalink
    January 30, 2010 1:40 am

    Your kids sound so much more entertaining than mine. Mine just ask me things like “how do you say ‘amor’ in English” and “¿tienes un novio?” and “¿Barce o Real Madrid?”. Maybe you are just simply good at drawing out the humor in your students but mine are apparently a dull bunch. Hope they continue to make you smile and laugh.

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