23: YEEHAA! Round 'em up!

Two weeks working at Emporium branch of King’s and it was time to up and leave again. This time though it was only for five days, these have been spent teaching at the King’s summer camp, sleeping in a tepee and listening to Dolly Parton at Pensuk Great Western Resort, Khorat. The tepee differed slightly from what I imagine a Native American tepee to have been like, comfortably contained within was an air-conditioning unit, a T.V and a fridge. I was surprised and alarmed to find my foot unmistakably tapping to Dolly on more than one occasion.

35 children in all attended the camp, in my class there was ten teenagers. Teaching teenagers is a whole different ball game to teaching younger children; I don’t refer only to ability, or level of English. Teens are at that stage in life where they feel exceedingly, excruciatingly self conscious about everything, this is a slight problem at an all singing, all dancing, all performing summer camp!

Day one was really set-aside as a kind of ice-breaker. We did activities such as ‘the human knot’ and ‘find someone who’ just to help the children to come out of their shell and begin to feel confident and relaxed around their classmates. In the evenings, various activities were planned, the first day we all went horse-riding. I say horse-riding, really it was just sitting on the back of a horse while a guy dressed as a cowboy walked around in a circle at snails pace. Still, it helped to make the mood more jovial.

Day two was when the real action began. Six hours of English spread throughout the day punctuated with ten minute breaks where the children were provided with as much sugar as possible, chocolate brownies, iced chocolate, raspberry aide. ‘Don’t put sugar in that Meena, there’s already six spoonfuls in there! Ok, just one more then.’ This lead to 30 minutes of the children running around like Billy Whizz and 20 minutes of using matchsticks in an attempt elevate their drooping eyelids. The English lessons were good fun with the teenage group; I even had two students on the camp who had been studying with us in LopBuri which shows that at least two students enjoy our lessons!

I wasn’t concentrating on hard-line grammatical accuracy in my lessons, the children were on holiday after all. My activities included; a little punctuation practice, a reading comprehension (The life and times of Billy the Kid), picture re-arranging and storytelling, and a listening gap fill + comprehension ( I’m like a bird – Nellie Furtado). We were also encouraged to cover some ‘crafts’ activities so we all made ‘Native American dream catchers.’ The activity in the evening on day two was my favourite of the trip, gun-slinging. I held the top score for a long while before being embarrassingly upstaged by an 11 year old student from LopBuri. He casually strolled up to the firing range, adopted a stance à la Wyatt Earp, tipped his cowboy hat to a jaunty angle and struck all five shots through the inner circle of the target. I wouldn’t have liked to have been an Indian with him around. As I was falling asleep that night, Dolly was still singing away when I think I heard a whisper calling out (with a Thai accent) on the breeze; “Goodnight Mary-Ellen, goodnight John-Boy!”

Ao and Tid, who study with us at Jindaratana in LopBuri

The morning of day three was taken up by three, hour-long English lessons. We spent the morning conducting that well known TEFL activity, the treasure hunt, before taking the remainder of the afternoon to prepare for the big ‘finale,’ a ten minute show performed by our individual classes. My class decided on a dramatisation of ‘the life of Billy the Kid’ complete with face paint, cowboy hats and gun-shot sound effects (balloons bursting!), the show went really well. We had an hour of archery before the evening festivities began. This included a cowboy and Indian show, a live band, line-dancing classes and a ‘how low can you go?’ limbo competition. My answer to this question was a resounding: ‘Not very.’

We left at mid-day on day four but not before the Thai staff held the obligatory infuriatingly vain summer camp ‘Mr and Mrs popular’ competition and encouraged (forced) children to make a small speech saying how much they had enjoyed themselves. I would go as far as to say that most of what they said was even true!

In true Thai fashion, we three teachers were then rated on how our classes had performed and bonded throughout the week. Areas subject to such ratings included ‘timing’, and the classic ‘team action’. This type of blatant performance evaluation wouldn’t be accepted in Western society, here it appears as a matter of course.


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