This year, the board of education here in Tamura City asked us to help with a new project – a two-night, three-day English camp. In the past, the English teachers on our team have helped prepare students to stay at British Hills, which is a place here in Japan that has British-style accommodations and activities. For some reason or another, the BOE changed the program this year, and instead chose to send the students to a lodge up on the top of a nearby mountain. They also asked us American teachers to actually participate in the camp, instead of just being trainers like we were before.
After thinking about and planning the camp for weeks, last week was finally “the weekend.” Almost all of us American teachers participated, so there were eight of us, along with some BOE staff members and some students from Waseda University, who run similar programs around the country and who did most of the planning and implementation for our camp. Twenty-three students participated, so there was a very high teacher-to-student ratio!
Even though participating in the camp meant extra work, I’d been looking forward to it, and it turned out to be quite a bit of fun. I had been hoping for a bit more of an outdoor camping experience, but unfortunately most of the activities were inside. However, the facility was very nice, and the views were amazing!!
The weekend was filled with discussions, games, and other activities. On the second day, the students were able to experience tree climbing using ropes, and to watch a drone being flown out over the valley. They also practiced flying small drones inside. On the third and final day, we split into groups and helped the students come up with original skits using a known fairy tale and adding a plot twist. My group chose Cinderella as the main story, and we drew a paper asking us to include an alien in the story. The group of students I worked with was incredibly creative, and ended up coming up with a lot of the skit on their own. They decided that, when the prince went to retrieve Cinderella’s left-behind shoe at midnight, an alien would swoop in and snatch it, and Cinderella would fall in love with him instead of the prince! It was pretty funny!
Here are the groups of students preparing for the play:
One of my favorite parts of our play was when a male student (who had volunteered to play the part of the evil stepmother), brandishing a folding fan, told Cinderella, “Shut up!” (a line he thought of himself!) in response to her question about why she couldn’t go to the ball. The students were even creative with their names. They named the girl who played the stepsister “Blossom,” because her Japanese name is the word for cherry blossom, and the girl who played the prince was “Prince Sky” because her real name includes the word for sky! We didn’t have much in the way of props or costumes, but our “prince” took off her skirt and wore her school shorts instead, and “Cinderella” completed her dress transformation by wearing her jersey over her uniform and taking it off to symbolize her transfiguration by the fairy godmother.
The “alien” also did a good job, although he had a lot of difficulty interacting comfortably with Cinderella. When he put her shoe back on, he couldn’t look her in the face, and he had a hard time pretending to be romantic. When one of the other teachers in my group asked if he would put his hand on Cinderella’s shoulder and waist during the final dance, he freaked out. “Zettai muri!” he said, which basically means, “That’s completely impossible!” So we had to settle for a mere holding of hands. 🙂
Since I generally don’t work with middle school students, it was very interesting for me to get a chance to interact with them. As is customary for middle school students participating in school activities, all the students wore their uniforms to the camp, although on the second day they wore their school athletic wear instead of the formal uniform. Each school also has a different style of uniform, so I really enjoyed learning more about the different schools’ uniforms and how to recognize them.
English camp turned out to be a busy three days, but it was fun and went quickly. On Wednesday, it was back to my regular work at the after-school program, which doesn’t let out until this coming Thursday. I’ve been busy writing term reports, but I finally have that wrapped up, and can now focus on what I’m really excited about – packing for a trip home this week! Next weekend, I’ll be in the States, so there will be a bit of a lull in posting for the next couple of weeks while I take some time off and get to do one of the most important things in life – spend time with family! Talk to you in a few weeks!