English Day Camp

My simple and spontaneous secondary project

Second semester in Indonesian schools is boring.

There, I said it.

There’s absolutely nothing going on for your average volunteer because students are consumed with a vigorous, and ridiculous, exam schedule.

I have tried to hold together a semblance of order, as if I needed to give my school more evidence toward the stereotypes that Americans are obsessed with time and schedules.

I’m sorry to all Americans who may meet someone from SMAN1 Panawangan in the future, but I really can’t handle the various wasted days off for no reason and the cringe worthy jam karet practice.

Call me stereotypical, but my planner and schedules are my favorite things. I need them to remain sane. Especially in Indonesia. To try and utilize the wasted time granted by excusing 10th and 11th grades from classes just because 12th graders have exams, I held an English Day Camp.

Having learned the proper channels to go through in order to get a project like this approved: I first asked my students if they were interested (they were ecstatic); then, I wrote a formal proposal and gave a copy each to my principal and vice principal of student activities, they approved it with enthusiasm. Finally, I gave the approved proposal to each of my three counterparts, who all began giving me excuses to why this camp shouldn’t be done — until they saw the stamp of approval.

Learn how to work the system kids! Don’t give them any reason to deny a proposal. Get all the approvals from as high up as you can go first! And I promise, having a project approved with principal enthusiasm is the best feeling in the world.

My proposal highlighted that the camp was completely free and would keep participating students from becoming lazy during their break from classes. All things principals like to hear.

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Two of my brightest students, Krishandaru and Atika, share with me their dreams and how they plan to accomplish their goals. 

While planning the schedule with the students who would be joining the camp (mostly, my English club girls), they asked for a fourth day of camp, why were there only three?

My heart simply flew away with happiness. That’s the type of moment that makes the proposal writing and playing politics worth it. The greatest feeling is when your students ask for more time to do activities.

On the first day: we watched “Hidden Figures,” and discussed how it made them feel as brown, female students of science. I had expected them to enjoy the movie and relate to it, but they were starry-eyed in a way I couldn’t have expected.

They want to be astronauts and say what they think and be taken seriously, just as these women (eventually) were. They were surprised to see so many black women working for a company like NASA and feel like they can now too. When I asked how they would all describe the movie, my five, 17-year-old, Muslim students all yelled it: inspiring.

On the second day:  we held a creative writing workshop. The girls were all given the same silly prompts and time to write, followed by sharing their stories out loud.

The goal: write creatively. Even though we all wrote starting from the same place, we ended up with very different stories.

We then each wrote down our dreams and three goals that will help us get there after a discussion of how English will help them in their future careers. I learned so much about my few students and where they want to go in life, and shared with them some more about my own dreams.

A bonding experience that can’t be created in a classroom setting with over thirty students.

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Cooking on the final day of camp.

On the final day of camp: to throw in a little cultural fun and celebrate the girls who used their week break to study with me, we whipped up a quick batch of powdered doughnuts. Each student brought a few ingredients to contribute to make sure the camp remained free to the school (an important aspect to, hopefully, keep this camp running and even expanding in the future).

It didn’t take long to make, and devour, the doughnuts so I thanked my students for joining me this week, and prepared to let them leave, but they looked at each other, looked at me, and decided no! they weren’t ready to go home yet.

We made another batch of doughnuts and sat watching “Pan,” no educational value, other than focusing their listening skills on Hugh Jackman’s pirate accent; however, a fun and successful end to my first camp.

Here’s to hoping it will grow next year, and maybe be allowed to exist during all of the random weeks of canceled classes due to exams in the future.

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