[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Teaching at an English camp is a tough job

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[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Teaching at an English camp is a tough job

The demand for English teachers is rising as the number of English camps in the country increases rapidly. As a result, many university students want to work as teacher’s aides because of the relatively high pay for a short time commitment; the opportunity to work with native English speakers to hone their language skills is an added benefit. I got a chance to work as a TA for a month at the Hyundai English Camp during summer vacation. I wanted to add teaching experience to my resume and get some training before I actually decide to become a teacher. Of course, making money before taking a long leave from school for mandatory military service was another important factor.
The camp I worked for gave children of Hyundai employees the opportunity to improve their English ability for free. The young students entered the week-long camp on a Monday, were taught to perform a play in English by Friday and returned home on Saturday.
Having no previous experience as a TA at an English camp, I focused only on the positive. When I read the contract and signed it before the camp, I never imagined what difficulties I would go through, although I did expect a little hardship.
The first difficulty was near total sleep deprivation. I was up by 6 a.m. every morning and could not go to bed until final preparations for classes and the play were completed. Because there was no systematic program, the TAs had to do a lot of tasks including things that should have been done by the professional teaching staff.
Like most people, I had imagined that I would get exposure to an English as a Second Language environment, a chance to enhance my own English ability as I taught young students.
To my disappointment, I realized that the English camp was not a place for learning English ― at least not for TAs. Most of our time was spent watching the children all day so they could not get in trouble or get hurt, an important job, but still a disappointment.
Another lesson I learned is that the “only English spoken zone in Korea,” the slogan used to promote the English camps, is just an ideal. On the first day, this camp seemed to run as an ESL environment. However, students’ ability to understand English varied so much that many of them could not adjust. So next day the camp decided to abandon its “English only” policy. I found that it’s impossible for students to substantially improve their English skills in a one-week camp.
If I were a parent, I thought, I would not pay so much money to send my children to an English camp in Korea unless it was free. However, the camp was a good place to make friends with people from various places.
More frank advice for college students who are interested in working as an English camp TA: It’s not an easy job and it doesn’t pay that well.
If you want to earn a lot of money, you’d be better off getting a job as a day laborer at a construction site.
But if you have a passion for children’s education, the job would suit you. I strongly recommend a job at an English camp to those who want to be English teachers because they can practice teaching as if they are in a real school.

* The writer is a reporter of The Argus, the English newspaper at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

by Lee Jin-woo
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