English Winter Camps
2 weeks of insane fun! The English winter camps have been undoubtedly the best part of my teaching experience here in Chile.
These camps are meant for high school students in public schools. A selected few of them get this chance where they have an environment to practice English with native speakers and loaded with a lot of fun activities. My camps had roughly 30–40 students each and it was super impressive to see the level of English of some of the students. The first time it was possible to have a real conversation with students in English here! While the level of private school students would be even better, these students deserve a lot of credit because they make an extra effort for this (outside schools).
Interacting with high-school kids was also a very different experience, especially after teaching in a middle school for last few months. Most of the campers were genuinely motivated to learn. Some used to travel 2 hours every day for the camp. They were also a very interesting and talented bunch: many played musical instruments and a lot of them were good at fine arts. I remember a girl who had picked up Korean just because she was obsessed with Korean music. While I loved the innocence and warmth of my middle school students with whom I formed a great bond during the semester, I really wish I could teach these campers for a long time!
Given the theme of the camp was young art, I got to learn a few things about stuff like the hip-hop movement, graffiti etc. These interesting things should really be a part of the curriculum to engage students better.
The most popular camp activity is Lipdub where all campers work on recording a funny video with an English song playing in background and everyone on camera doing lip-sync. The energy level in the camp is easily twice that of other days and it also gets competitive with all camps in Chile trying to create the best Lipdub video.
In general, these students understand English much more than they speak. One of my favorite students from the camp, Stephania, said that the reason she participated in the camp was to be able to speak English without getting embarrassed. The approach to teaching a foreign language must be different than how a native language is taught in school. It should be centered much more around reducing the barrier to practice the language and the Chilean public schools need a lot of changes for that. Of course, my volunteer program is a great move in the right direction.