Teaching: Mission Impossible

Kim_MISSION_IMPOSSIBLEby Kim ‘Possible’ Morris

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.” With Thomas Jefferson’s words in mind I set out on a mission. My mission was to not sit around for summer vacation doing nothing. I believe I had an Einstein moment and the idea of a summer camp was conceived. It was early March so I had sufficient time to nurture my idea. Step one was to inform a few teachers about my “brilliant plan”.  They stressed that they would be busy and would have no time to help me with such a concept.  I was also told that this has never been done and that “Japanese people” are not accustomed to camps, and of course that the students would be exceptionally busy during the summer. I must say those words did hit hard. In fact, my “brilliant plan” appeared to be not so brilliant. As a result, I returned my focus to my other duties.

However, after a few months I realized this plan would not escape my thoughts. So by May I was back to planning. This time I kept my ideas to myself. I created a rationale to prove how my plan would be beneficial for all involved. I started planning several activities that I knew English Club students and other students of my high school would enjoy. I also thought it was ideal to invite other ALTs to be a part of this mission. I was overwhelmed by the support and feedback that I received from ALTs. This was just the motivation I needed. With motivation level at its peak I was ready to sell my “brilliant idea.” I went back to some teachers who told me it’s best I do my camp during winter vacation, one also told me that it was “impossible” to invite other ALTs without them taking paid leave. I was saddened by this and as a result many ALTs started to refuse my invitation. I sought guidance from a more authoritative source…I told him of my plan and that I knew it would be great. A few weeks later I had the green light. Now all the real challenge began. I had to prepare numerous paperwork about who, what, where, why and when. After a few days I realized this was indeed mission impossible…impossible for one person. However, I did not let this hinder me. I took my vitamins and used my time wisely.

July 22-26 was the date of English Camp affectionately called, “Mission Impossible.” With a total of 27 students registered we started off at1pm as was planned. On day one we had 17 participants- most of which were all members of English Club. They did various activities ranging from a very interactive self-introduction from one Scottish lad name Michael Cowan. The students and I were engrossed in his presentation. He held the attention of the students from the start and he maintained their attention throughout. Of course I could not just assume that they were listening, so afterwards I asked students various questions about Michael’s self-introduction. The students were successful in answering all the questions asked. I must say at that moment I felt like a proud mother. After activity one, we had two more activities before we could conclude the day’s events. We did an activity called “The Hunt” and a challenging board game, which tested the students’ grammar, speaking and listening abilities. We ended at approximately 4pm. To summarize/evaluate day one I will use the words of Michael, “Just had a day teaching at a senior high school for the first time, it was great fun. To be able to converse using my natural speech was just so great. It was one of my most fun teaching days so far.”

Day two started with a little glitch, so we were a little behind on time. However, students would not be dismayed, they were armed with popcorn and other movie treats because Tuesday was Movie Day. The students watched keenly not to miss an important or non-important scene of Ice Age. After all, their keen sense of attention would be crucial in gaining maximum points for their team’s written movie review challenge. The day ended with Lisa Chenier giving some words of wisdom to the students.

Day three started very early, 10:30am to be exact. Lisa started off by giving a well-organized self-introduction. After she finished I allowed the students to ask questions,  and although the questions were many and varied, one student had to ask that one question that all ALTs dread… “Do you have a boyfriend?” With that unanswered question we moved on to the other activities of the day – the Great Interview. Later, the students had to create their own aliens. The day ended a little before 2pm. Lisa said her goodbyes and wished the students well.

Day 4 started with a short self-introduction by Erica Grainger and her typhoon game…which had no typhoon or tornadoes. The students did enjoy not experiencing those natural disasters by the way. The points were neck and neck between most teams since the disasters were still to be revealed. The students enjoyed this activity and Erica’s chirpiness. The students shared their Aliens, which might have scared Erica a bit. The TSC or some form of brain alien from Jupiter proved how creative these students were. We ended by writing a short summary of the life of William Shakespeare. This activity really tested the students reading, writing, speaking and their ability to reword and summarize given content. We ended early in preparation for upcoming day.

Day 5: the day that the students’ culinary awareness would be tested. The menu was prepared and students in their groups were ready to cook beef/chicken soup, curried chicken, white rice and coleslaw. The task was to make enough servings for about 32 persons. Erica was put to the test, she assisted in soups. I was an all-rounder making sure that all stations were carefully managed. The students were schooled in making perfect Jamaican dumplings. Some were ready and demonstrated great knife skills and also showed that they had a passion for cooking. Others were as lost as fish out of water. However, we all helped each other and successfully cooked all dishes. Then we all sat and had a great meal together. Erica had only kind words of encouragement for me and also my students. She really appreciated that I invited her and she enjoyed herself and the interaction with students. In the words of Erica a program such as this must have taken tremendous management skills and also time, effort and dedication.

With that said the week was over…mission impossible: not so impossible!!

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