Back to School time

first day of school


Today is the first day of the second semester of school here in Korea, which actually doesn’t mean anything much for us subject teachers (English, Art, Music, etc.).  The first day of a semester here is usually taken up with the opening ceremonial stuff and the kids are quarantined in their homerooms for the organizational chaos that is involved with trying to get them back on a school schedule.

Meanwhile, I’ve got all the windows in my classroom open so I can enjoy the absolutely gorgeous weather that has magically descended on Busan this week. For the moment, at least, it’s clear and just slightly cool, without a hint of the oppressive humidity that has been slowly killing my soul all summer. I have no doubt that there will be one last heat wave somewhere between now and October – but I can sense the coming of fall, and it gives me hope that I can last ’til the cold weather arrives for real.


winter is coming        …and it’s going to be awesome.  



You’re a Wizard, Harry! (Summer Camp)

An EPIK contract in Korea comes along with the expectation that you will teach English language camps during both the summer and winter vacations of your school(s). Of course, your school should (and often does) work with you to make sure that the camp dates don’t conflict with any vacation days that you want to take during that time. But definitely count on the camps coming first in terms of their priorities.

Of course, everyone’s school setup is going to be different – but my camp was one week at each of my schools, starting right after the end of the semester. So I had a week-long camp at my main school followed by the same week-long camp at my second school (since the students were different, I happily was able to just do the planning for one camp and then repeat it). I had one 90-minute class of lower-level students (generally a mix of 3rd/4th graders) followed by a 90-minute class of slightly higher-level students (5th/6th graders), meaning that I just had to tweak the material slightly between classes.

To the delight of my students, I chose Harry Potter as the theme for my camp. My coteacher is a bit older than me and she was somewhat skeptical of the idea that students would be interested in Harry Potter enough for the theme to work, but I forged ahead and I’m happy to say that they were stoked about it. ^_^    They had to fill out anonymous reviews at the end of the camp and one of the students wrote that when she made a magic wand it “made [her] feel like a real wizard”. You heard that right – we made magic wands!

Still, I will say that planning for a summer camp is Hard Work. You’re not starting with the structure of a textbook, so every bit of structure comes from your brain. Plus it’s camp – these kids are supposed to be on vacation, but their parents signed them up for this English camp (probably because their English isn’t great). They don’t want to be there. You have to balance the desires of the school (for them to do English worksheets and memorize vocabulary all day) with the needs of the kids (to have it not just seem like an extension of school).

I think I managed that balancing act this time around, but I definitely leaned hard towards the “fun” aspect – we didn’t do a lot of worksheets. On the other hand, I think I exhausted my best camp idea and now I’m terrified about winter camp, haha…


Korean Harry Potter