Thursday, August 23, 2012

Preparing for the Big Finish

     I   can hardly believe that just two weeks ago we were on the plane traveling to Poland and now we’re wrapping it up, getting ready for the  big Friday night performance for parents and friends and then the good-byes.

     This was a nonstop day. The first two hours were regular English classes and the next two were for an English language movie. Georgianna’s class divided into two groups, girls and boys, to start work on the Friday presentation. They’ll act out simple, basic English situations, what I call “courtesy and survival English,” throwing in as many “th” sounds as possible. Alex and Charlotte will participate with this class and also with Dorota’s class in the “invisible bench” sequence. Jim’s class is working on an advanced musical number, not the Marine Corps hymn, alas.

     The weather was gorgeous so students were  out on the tennis and volleyball courts, the football field, and in the very cold swimming pool when they weren’t in the big tent preparing for the Circus of Fun and Thrills. Kasia (Catherine), the theatre director, did two full run-throughs of the show. Georgianna started out as the official rehearsal audience but soon metamorphosed into the speech and diction coach. Lots of “th’s” and “the’s.” I must say, it is a spectacular show with acrobats, a juggler, hula hoop dancers, animal trainers and animals—elephants, lions, snakes and polyglots.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So Much Fun

Things are going along smoothly, but the kids are getting less and less enthusiastic about English. For the first  hour I was with Dorota and we played 20 Questions to wake them up. And it worked! 20 Questions was a big hit!!  For the second hour,  I went to Grandma’s class and we walked around Reymontowka, identifying landmarks and different buildings in English and Polish. Later, we drew maps. For third hour, I went back to Dorota and we played Apples to Apples, which is very populalr among the teachers and campers. And, last, Grandma gave a presentation about Washington, D.C. during the last hour.

After lunch, instead of going to theatre, art, dance and sports we went into Siedlce. We had lots of fun. Charlotte and I finished getting gifts for our friends and Charlotte got brand new shoes.  Once we all finished shopping we went to Dorota’s mother’s house, which was terrific. We had delicious homemade Charlotteka, an apple cake,  orange juice and fresh fruit. We even got to bring some back to Reymontowka for dessert.  Then, after all the chatting was done and none of us were hungry for dinner, we went home to Reymontowka and to our surprise, we ate a large amount of warm potato pancakes with delicious mushroom gravy. Mmmmmmmm.  Soon we will go to a bonfire and roast marshmallows. So much food. So much fun.

Alex McGuire

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Slower Start

Is this like the  “sophomore slump,” the drop-off in enthusiasm and effort  that second-year college students are famous for? The students were dragging today, not as bright and “up” as last week. Their busy weekend with a full day in Warsaw, parent visits, and a scavenger hunt wore them out. And, the hot, humid weather today didn’t help any of us who had classes in the tent.

     We made some personnel changes for the day : Dorota took over Matthew’s class and Alex agreed to be her assistant while Charlotte shifted over to Georgianna’s beginner class. Dorota’s class has begun to plan its Friday night presentation, “the invisible bench.”  Georgianna’s class will probably do something with introductions, asking for help, giving directions, and ordering food in a restaurant. The finale will have to include lots of “th” words to demonstrate their mastery of that difficult but essential English sound.

     The evening activity was to have been a talent show but the campers decided at the last minute that they weren’t ready, maybe by Wednesday? So, instead of a talent show they did a combination lip syncing and karaoke show. I’m not sure they were ready for that either, but they seemed to have a good time.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Polish Night

After breakfast, we had our usual morning classes, and, in the fourth period, Matthew gave his presentation on the city of Chicago. It was very interesting and informative, and I learned a few new facts about the “Windy City” I didn’t know, even though I was born, reared and raised in Chicago.

After we had lunch, Charlotte, Kamila, Karolina, Matthew and I made the one and one half hour trek to Treblinka, a German concentration camp in Poland during World War II. It was very interesting to walk around the grounds and to view the memorial dedicated to the 800,000 people who lost their lives at the camp. One of the most poignant moments for me was viewing a large boulder at the memorial site which had the words “never again” in Polish inscribed on the  stone.

After dinner, we all went to the tent to enjoy Polish night which included everything from the Polish students dancing the Polonaise, to the students singing the Polish national anthem. After the rousing and entertaining show, we all departed the tent for our rooms to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for our trip to Warsaw the next day. All in all, it was another great day!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fun Activities

This morning, we went down for breakfast, and had really good pancakes. For the first hour we did tongue twisters and interviewing each other about what they did over the summer. For the second hour we played Boggle and finding mistakes in sentences. For third hour I went with Grandma while Alex went with Sylvia. Grandma and I did th’s and read the Giving Tree then talked about it afterwards. For fourth hour some of the classes did singing some of them didn’t, like Grandma’s and Daddy’s. Then we did the Cha-Cha Slide and I don’t want to be a chicken, I don’t want to be a duck, and then we did YMCA. Daddy, Grandma and I went to Waldek and Tosia’s apartment at 5:00pm. We came back around 9:00pm. Alex was still watching the evening activity so we asked her for the key and went upstairs to bed.

-          Charlotte

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Full Day

I feel like we’ve only been here for 2 days. Teaching went pretty well today. But in first hour the kids looked like they were half asleep so we did some fun active things like musical chairs and Simon Says. Everything went pretty smoothly after that, we even practiced TH’s and I think they improved but I still hear “fff…” instead of “th th th…”. But that’s okay because we will practice again tomorrow. For third hour I went to Camilla’s class. I expected it to be loud, but they were pretty quiet. Phillip said it was because they were shy. And last but not least during fourth hour Nicky gave a presentation about Great Britain and emphasized how different the accents are and how you shouldn’t confuse Great Britain and England. Dance, Theatre, and Art were great. In dance we are learning a new all-girls dance. It is very difficult. In theatre we added in a new scene –hula hoops! It is a lot of fun. And in art we worked on a very funny story about a dog named Mars. It even includes pictures.

At 6:30 Grandma, Daddy, Charlotte, Jim, Andrzej and I all left Reymontowka to go to the Janusz Hotel. It was very nice. I got to try steak tartare with quail egg and I practiced some Polish. It was a great evening. When we all got home Charlotte went to bed and fell asleep in two seconds and Grandma and I followed shortly after. What a full day!
- Alexandra

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Settling In

Today was our second day of teaching, and the campers are getting settled in. It seems that many stayed up late last night, talking and forming friendships that are becoming more apparent during the day. Most of the kids are eager to improve their English, and they work hard throughout the day – concentrating, reaching for that word they can’t quite find, and wanting to show their teachers that they are improving. As several people have pointed out, the English classes in school here center around textbooks rather than conversational English, so some kids are more comfortable than others with the spoken word. We started our day as we always do, the Volunteers together as a team over breakfast; and then we went into our classes. Since I am new to teaching English as a Second Language, I am still trying out different sorts of exercises to see what is most effective. Some “games”,  some lessons from workbooks, some things I have overheard Mom using or Dorota suggesting. Mom and Jim have more of a routine, it seems, but everyone has been open about the challenge of engaging all of the students and helping them to progress. Building their confidence, and letting them know that we don’t expect perfection, goes a long way. Tomorrow we will continue to do just that.

Our day included more than just class, however. We had the chance to meet with the Governor of Siedlce’s county, and had a very interesting discussion. I’m sure Alex & Charlotte were not surprised that we quickly went to politics, and that I enjoyed hearing the Governor’s perspective. He is a thoughtful man, and his views were far-ranging. From the shift in Polish values as the country modernizes, to the uncertainty of natural gas discoveries, to the stultifying effect of socialism on generations of workers during the Communist era, and even to his own decisions to focus on family rather than reaching for the highest professional rungs – we all listened intently, just as he did to us.

We also went into Siedlce for the first time, and got a sense of the town. It’s beautiful churches, some of its shops, its narrow roads and the pleasantness of its residents. And then we came back to Reymontowka in time to judge the campers fashion show. (Jakub and Magda won – largely due to how much fun they had as they marched, sauntered, and pranced down the “runway”.) We had a good time, as we have since the moment we arrived….
- Matthew

Monday, August 13, 2012

Show Time

Show time! First day of classes. For me last minute anxiety – always. Did I prepare enough materials, would I run out of lessons before time was up, would the work be too hard, or  - worse – too easy for the kids? And four classes in a row with the same kids – how can I keep them interested, focused, for that long? And we know that they were probably just as anxious, and more.

All survived, volunteers and students. For Jim, it was an especially good day with the most advanced students. For Georgianna and Alex it was a terrific day with the supposedly least advanced  students (we’re not so sure, maybe people say that they because they’re the youngest ones?). We varied our activities so that students with different learning styles would get chances to participate. Some are quiet but understand English and could explain to others in Polish. Some are confident and speak out, even if they’re not sure of an answer. They were enthusiastic and willing and ready to work. Not that we know something about their levels we’re really excited about the next two weeks.

Matthew had the biggest class because he got two extra students, Carolina, the counselor, and Kasia, the camp theatre director. They moved around a lot, first because of a sudden downpour and later for a walk around Reymontowka, an opportunity for students to use and expand their English vocabularies.

It was a good day for all – the usual outstanding meals (and we’re expanding our Polish food vocabularies as well as our waistlines). Alex and Charlotte joined the campers afternoon activities  - which gave some of the Polish students extra time with English speakers.

We’re meeting our goals – we’re working as a team, and we’re having fun.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Setting goals

What a pleasure it is to once again see and be with Georgianna  again in Poland. It is also an extra added pleasure to meet and be with her son, Matthew, and her granddaughters,  Alex and Charlotte.

We started our day with a great breakfast, and afterwards met to discuss what we thought were the characteristics of an effective team. We also established our team goals and discussed the daily schedule for our next two weeks of summer camp at Reymontowka.

As our team goals we chose: Learn About Polish People, Language and Food, Help Polish Students to Learn and Practice English, Have Fun, Make New Friends, and Try New Things.

After our meeting with Dorota, we immediately started preparing for our first day lessons with our students. Before we knew it, it was time for lunch and time to eat again.

After lunch, we learned some basic Polish words and phrases, and I was amazed at how quickly Alex and Charlotte picked up and effectively grasped what Dorota had taught. You would have thought they had been in Poland for weeks!

Later that afternoon, we introduced ourselves to the Polish teachers, counselors, and staff, and they did likewise. Also the students introduced themselves and told us their names, ages, where they lived, and how long they had been studying English. We then briefly met with the students who would be in our individual classes for the next two weeks. Then it was more preparation for classes, and then it was time to eat once again. How quickly the day had passed!

By the time we knew it, it was time for bed, with each of us excited about what new adventures and challenges the next two weeks would hold for all of us.