The past five days, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in some English camps as part of my trip to Chiang Mai this summer. I am a seventeen year old senior at Phoenix Country Day School in Phoenix, Arizona. So far in my high school career, I haven’t had formal teaching experience. However in India, over the summer, I taught a group of about fifteen children of migrant construction workers who were impoverished basic English and Math. But now in Thailand, I participated (and occasionally even led) in three different English camps in five days. Three of the days were spent at two different government schools just outside of Chiang Mai. The other two days we traveled to a Dhamma center, in Wiang Haeng, with all the other ATMA SEVA volunteers.
As I had mentioned before, I’ve never been a part of an English camp or any thing similar. Initially, because of this, it was hard to visualize what it would be like. The other volunteers and I were pretty well prepared for our first one with a theme and a game plan for the whole day. I wasn’t too nervous because of this but by the time we got there, it started to kick in that we would be teaching a pretty large group of kids. I haven’t been too good with speaking in front of large audiences so it was intimidating to be in front of a group of almost fifty kids that would be participating. At first, even introducing myself was scary in front of so many watching eyes (having a name that’s a bit hard to pronounce didn’t help). After some initial introductions, we broke into small groups. This was really awesome because I had a smaller group to get to know and do some activities with. From these, I realized that the kids were just happy about getting an opportunity to learn, and they didn’t care too much about how well we did it or whether we made a few mistakes or not. After rotating groups and spending time with the kids, I got a lot more comfortable with the bigger group because I knew everybody, and all of the students had learned my name. Now, I was even able to lead the group for some activities. The following camps went a lot smoother for me after the first experience because I could picture what the camp would be like and all the kids and teachers of the schools we went to were extremely friendly and excited to learn and get to know the volunteers.
If I could make suggestions for other people going to their first English camp I would first and foremost say that one should remember that even if you don’t feel completely ready or nervous that these kids are super excited to learn and to practice speaking English with you. Its natural to feel a little nervous but just remember that the kids are probably more nervous talking to you, and once they open up it’s really a blast to spend time with them. Finally, the best part is the satisfaction of when you see the improvement in the time they were with you and to see how excited they are to have learned from you.
If you have the opportunity to participate in any kind of English camp, I would definitely do it. This was my first experience, and I had a blast teaching the kids and participating in various activities. You may feel a bit nervous or intimidated at first, but, by the end of it, you’ll wish you could do it every day!
written by: Raghav Agarwal