Sunday, July 24, 2011

feeling camp

Sorry for being MIA for the last two weeks or so. I've been on English Winter Camp schedule, which essentially means up at 7:30, home around 6:30 followed by a meeting to plan for the next day of camp, shitty hostel dinner (after an earlier shitty student lunch), brave the hostel showers, put in earbuds to drown out hostel noise, bed. Sometimes a little bit of Chilean wine snuck into the evening schedule, which did wonders for my floundering Spanish and our camp talent show dance act, but set me back a few hours of sleep for the next long day and took a toll on my immune system.

Anyway, after surviving three weeks of life out of a suitcase, shitty food, shared accommodations and a cold-turned-sinus infection, I'm finally settled in to my host family in my host city of Antofagasta, and ready to take on anything my "real" teaching job can dish out.

All in all, camp was a great (if exhausting) introduction to teaching. As I've worked in academic camps before, it was familiar ground, and a great place for me to practice my teacher voice and "you'd better stop misbehaving and listen to me this instant, bucko" glare:
Also, since the students participating were the most motivated in the country (acceptance to the ministry of education-funded camps is pretty competitive), they were a lot easier to work with then the apathetic, don't-care-about-college-cuz-I'm-gonna-be-a-miner-anyway, frequently-pregnant (Chile is a very Catholic country, and although birth control and condoms are technically over-the-counter, they are apparently in limited supply, as is access to proper sexual education) students that current volunteers keep warning me I'll encounter in the classroom. In other words, they were the perfect guinea pigs for teaching techniques, and they respected my authori-tah. If only a simple blue t-shirt granted me so much power in the real world.
Here I am being all leadershippy:
And, at a more fun moment, practicing a class skit:
I learned a lot, too. After a first week spent with a really negative, disinterested teaching partner, I learned that students feed off of the energy you provide them. If you don't bring enthusiasm to the classroom, they won't either, and if you seem at all cynical about an activity, they'll immediately become stubborn and non-participatory. I learned how to pretend like you have energy even when you don't, and how to muster an audible voice in spite of illness. I learned that high school students respect you more if you treat them like adults, (even if that means explaining what an 'orgy' is). I learned that there is a line to be drawn, however, between the part of my life that I share with them and the part I keep for myself, which is why I now have a second Facebook profile, Rebecca Chile, that has been friended by many teenage Chileans but that has no ties to my "real" self.

I also learned to boogie. For the talent show at the end of the first camp, the girl counselors dressed as gangstas and did the Soulja Boy dance; for the second we did an approximation of the joyful You Make My Dreams from 500 Days of Summer. Much more interesting than my own lame attempts at hip hop moves, however, are the traditional folk dancing steps of one of my students, who performed the Cueca, the Chilean National Dance. It's a two-person dance of romantic conquest and extensive handkerchief waving, in which the man wears a poncho and jingly spurs and plays the starring role, tapping and stomping around the coy woman until she at last succumbs. Lacking a female partner, my student opted to seduce an even more worthy woman, Chile herself. I leave you with the footage:

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