English summer camp started last week. I like my girls, and I’m glad that I have a job, but I still feel a little bit bad for these kids. They don’t really get a proper vacation, sincea break from regular school is a chance to take extra math lessons, tae kwon do classes, English lessons, dance classes. My students have fuller schedules than I do! (That is not hyperbole) Every minute I spend reading a book or acting like a teenager with Dave and Zorro is a minute our students need to spend studying.
I love pre-teens and teenagers. It’s kind of a joke in the office that I wish I had all teenage classes, since the other teachers like to avoid them. Honestly, I would trade my adults for teenagers in a heartbeat. My girls play games, tease each other and ask questions. The adults are usually fine products of the Chinese school system who just want to sit quietly and learn English via repetition and lao wai osmosis. They base their English level on how many words they’ve memorized, not on how much they can express in English.
And that’s why I love teenagers. With girls, though, you need to show no weakness. I spent quite a while planning my first-day activities and my contingency plan in case my lessons flopped or turned out to be too difficult. A slight sign of hesitation, and they swarm like sharks smelling blood in the water. They are a rabid fashion paparazzi regarding the American teacher. But they’re worse to each other, and they turn on each other Lord Of The Flies style in seconds. If it sounds like teaching 15-year-old girls is an extreme sport, well, that’s because is it.
Today I was covering past progressive with past simple. I started by telling them about the time our class stole a car.
“While the man was shopping inside, I stole his sports car.” I said. “When I was driving it away, I saw it was low on gas,” Recognition showed on their faces, they realized I was kidding. Then they started to add to the story, telling me that they stole a car and robbed a bank. But the bank only had 2 kwai, so they robbed a store with a gun, hid the money in the zoo under the tigers and spent rest of the money on candy.
I don’t know if their English has improved yet, but their creativity surely has.