Last week I took on an entirely new teaching challenge: children. Three years ago, the New Yorker developed a "Summer Day Camp" program. Children come to camp for a week, three hours a day. During that time, the children play, draw, sing and speak English. It is all designed not only to teach English in a non-threatening environment, but also to awaken an interest in the language. This way when the students get to school, they don't just say, "Oh, man! English! Yuck!" The New Yorker teaches the 5 to 8 year olds, and I decided to tackle the 9 to 11 year olds. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
First, teaching children is an entirely different type of work. It is more strenuous and involves a lot more activity. There is a constant up, down, worrying aspect that I just do not experience with adults. For example, the children get a 15 minute play outside period. During that time, I stand by the side with my ice handy in case someone accidentally gets hit while playing basketball. I have a new respect for elementary school teachers.
Second, I was in no way prepared for the amazing mimic ability that children have. Their accents are fantastic. I only have to repeat something a few times, and the students can soon repeat it on their own. In one week, they mastered three new songs. Also, the children understood some structures and functions in English much faster than some adults. After one hour, they could ask their fellow student, "When do you . . .?" and respond. I once had an adult student, who needed three weeks to master that structure.
Third, the children give back emotionally in away that adults do not. I become good friends with lots of my students, but none of them hugged my like the 9 year old last week, who wanted to know if we can have a camp in the fall break. It was also beautiful the way they showed their work to their parents, so full of pride.
Teaching children is something that we would like to expand in our business. Three weeks ago (July 8, 2007) there was a large article in Die Welt (http://www.welt.de/), "Why Children Should Learn English Early." In the article, the newspaper quoted studies that show that students who learn English at an early age (i.e. 4 to 5) go on to do better in all subjects in school, including math.
I am also interested in this topic because I would like to raise my child to be bilingual. I am already surfing through the Internet for books and tips. Uh, oh. I smell research coming on, which I just love. It is the nerd in me. I cannot help myself. If anyone has any tips or book suggestions, let me know.
I have a new group of kids this week. It did not gel as well this morning, but I blame the rain. I am sure it will get better. There is a third and final group next week. By that time I will most definitely need my vacation.