Thursday, July 9, 2009

Things That Are Stressing Me Out, Part 1 in a List

Update time! Things have been super busy for the past few weeks and they're not likely to settle down for couple more. Reasons #1 why I've been looking a bit crazy about the eyes:

English camp: There is a six week summer break from July 20th to August 28th and during the break I will teach three English camps. There are specific goals of the camps (for example, the first and second graders are studying phonics), but it's less of an actual class and more fun times with the American teacher. We play a bunch of games, sing a few songs and hopefully the kids learn some English, or at least get a chance to use what they already know. I won't be teaching with my regular (beloved) co-teacher because she has a training program during the summer break. Instead, whoever ranks low enough on the totem pole and is available will show up to be my co-teacher. (I found out TODAY that the vice principal will be my co-teacher for an entire week, which is okay because at least he speaks English, but also stressful because he's my boss.) All of this means that I'm in charge of making the lesson plans and developing all the necessary materials.

I spent about a week in a mild panic over the lesson plans. (I seriously spent about a week staring at my computer with the crazy eyes and accomplished almost nothing.) I downloaded a bunch of sample lesson plans from other schools' camps and read them all and just could not process everything. Too much, too fast, too much and I was completely overwhelmed. Then I bought myself a cute little notebook (it has a panda lying in a field of clover telling me "you need a refresh") and started writing things down and breathing a bit deeper and lesson planning is going much better. That doesn't, however, mean it's going quickly. In the past week and a half, I've written the (super super detailed) lesson plans for half the camps. I've also stayed late every day this week. I'll be finished with the lesson plans by the time the first camp starts, but I'll still have to create all the necessary materials, which I had hoped to have already started by the end of this semester.

Part of the reason I'm so worried about these camps is that I've taught English camps before and it was a less than pleasant experience. I had a month of English camp during the winter break and the one time I wrote about them I said:
Part of the reason winter camps are going so well is that we always have all the materials we could possible need, primarily because I have five hours to prepare the day before. Need 180 flashcards for a game? Sure, I can make those. It's not like I'm doing anything else with my time. I'm going to run out of things to prepare soon, though. I've already started on next week's lessons.
The next week the camps collapsed into a disaster of awful, which just goes to show that you shouldn't be cocky on the Internet. The first and second grade camp, the only one where there was a textbook, went fine, but the rest were a disorganized, ill-prepared hot mess.

I think I know why they were such a disaster and can learn from those mistakes. I was looking at the lesson plans for the winter camp today and I scratched my head because, seriously, what the hell was I thinking? There was maybe thirty minutes of material to fill nearly two hours. And not only was there not enough material, it wasn't presented in a way that was conducive to learning. I think that was in part because my former co-teacher (who created most of the lesson plan) had no idea how to make a lesson plan, something she demonstrated practically every day, and in part because we were both new teachers and neither of us realized how much we relied on the textbook to provide structure for the lesson. Take away that structure and everything collapses in on itself. To compound matters, during all this Ji-Won failed the national teachers examination (for a second time) and just checked out for the rest of the year. She stopped coming to school, leaving other teachers to cover her position, which meant that I was in charge of creating everything we needed for the three hours of class, usually the afternoon before. I was staying late and coming early in a desperate attempt to get everything done by myself and even though I knew we didn't have enough planned, there wasn't any time to come up with more. It was an exhausting and disheartening few week. Luckily I left for two weeks of vacation the last day of camp and came back to Korea rejuvenated and no longer wanted to punch someone in the teeth, but you can see why I'm a bit stressed. Not to mention that it's a colossally huge amount of work that I only have a few weeks to do.

A few weeks ago I was telling a friend how stressed I was about the camps and she brushed me off as neurotic and high-strung and once I was done punching her in throat (no actual punching was involved), I did admit that she's sort of right. Things will go better this time. I know what went wrong the first time and I'm correcting those mistakes. I'm worrying and stressing about things now, when I have time to do something about them, rather than the day before the lesson. I'm a much better teacher than I was seven months ago. I know a lot more about how to plan a good lesson and I have a whole list (a literal list; it's in the panda notebook right next to the activities about food) of things I can fall back on if we start to run short. Things will be better this time, but that doesn't mean I'm not worried now.

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