Renee Wu | CIIP 2023 Blog Portfolio
Posted: July 5, 2023
This week is about getting to know my organization and the peace camp that is coming next month. I have two weekly meetings with my supervisor and I’m primarily working on researching, brainstorming and website updating. I like it when I’m in a small org so that I could have a chance to touch base on all aspects of event planning, advertising and organizing. Also I found the work to be at the right level of intellectual challenge for me, pushing me to think a lot about ways to communicate and engage with the kids from a completely different background from me.
What I feel a bit disappointed is that I found it as a slow and easy start, which is good but sometimes I wish I could contribute more and thus be able to learn more and get more out of this experience. However, I think in the following weeks the work might be increasingly intense.
This week I have been mostly focusing on developing my workshop, during which I learnt a lot and felt the things we talked thru orientation very applicable. I went over my slides for the workshop with my supervisor and she gave me a lot of inspiring advice. For example, originally I was gonna talk about several European paintings to lead to the topic of culture, subculture and counterculture, but my supervisor told me it’d be better if I replace these European paintings with art from these kids’ own culture. Also, she told me to be more sensitive to some sociological terms because their implications are often western and white, such as the differentiation of high culture and low culture. Subculture itself is a very complicated term to explain and give a lesson about. I also expressed my concerns of my own cultural background and worries of not being able to fit into my students, but my supervisor was super nice and encouraged me to try bringing the kids into my cultural world. She said that I’m perfect for giving this workshop because as the class proceeds, the kids could be the one who are gonna teach me their culture. During this process, they would appreciate the value of their culture and examine it with a sociological lens. Also, even if I always know that 10-year-old kids might not be able to focus and engage for 60-90 minutes and I try to make my session as fun as possible, but my supervisor still gave me very useful suggestions on how to weave in more interactive questions and games, especially those that make them reflect on their own cultural assets. This all reminds me of what we learnt during orientation, to remain sensitive of our background and to use an asset-based approach when coming into the community.
For the past whole week we had our staff meetings that prepare us to kick off our camp. I learnt a lot from the meetings just by listening to experienced senior counselors that have been holding this camp some for more than a decade. Their considerations for the kids often surprised me, especially the complexity of the safety issues. I didn’t realize the responsibility we are taking over to hold a camp like this for 5-13 year olds. We have to consider how to keep them hydrated (how to remind them to always bring their water bottles with them), how to keep track of them during field trip, how to prevent bullying/fighting from happening in our camps, etc. All kinds of things that I wouldn’t ever thought of if I didn’t attend these meetings.
We also talked a lot about what our expectations for the peace camp are, including what we try to nurture here and what we are fighting against through our education here. The discussion was very inspiring and central because it comprises our mission here. What we want to convey to our kids will become part of the environment we create here.
What didn’t meet my expectation was, however, our plan for the lessons and the studios was less structured than what I imagined. Oftentimes the discussion on the schedule was not efficient because we have 2-3 teachers for a class (classes are divided by age groups), and each has a different way to teach. I think the coordination and communication part could be improved in order to reach the best educational effects.
This past week was a really impressive experience to me. I struggled and grew from the first week of the camp. It was especially hard because the rest of the staff all knew very well the daily routines of the camp well I didn’t. They also knew the kids before since they have been here for years, and I had to build new relationships with the kids all at once. I was a bit overwhelmed the first day and also a bit frustrated because of lack of guidance.
The second day went really well, however. The kids participated actively in my peace hero class and they finished the activities. I was glad that they actually took away something from my class. The studios in the same afternoon went also smoothly and I was there with the chess studio teaching and playing chess with several kids. The third day gave me another strike cause the kids didn’t want to listen to the class content ( now thinking back I think it was the problem of my lesson design because I didn’t relate the kids’ daily lives to the peace heroes), but then I thought it was the kids who didn’t want to learn at all. I also felt frustrated because I feel like no one in my class is taking this seriously and they might walk out with nothing learnt.
I felt really supported by my coworkers and supervisor as I had a check-in meeting with another teacher on Thursday and she helped me walk through a lesson plan. She taught me that we should think from the perspective of a 10-year-old, why would they be interested in what you’re talking about, how could they relate personally, and what could they apply to their lives, etc. This includes always using the language they could understand. I also did a coffee chat with my supervisor this Saturday, and she encouraged me to build relationship with my students outside of class time, such as staying with them during breakfast/lunch as well as exercise time.
So overall, I reflected a lot in the past week while struggling to see the point of the work we’re doing and to do it better.
This week has been a bit chaotic for me because of coordination and communication problems. The class is taught by three teachers, while none of us knows what each other will do for each class. Usually we divided the class time into three stations and each of us leads one, but this week the schedule was unusual because of the drumming classes and other special activities. This interrupts our normal class time and thus the lack of coordination between us three teachers became more obvious. Also, one teacher is leaving the next week, so she kind of just let go her section without notifying us earlier. Thus I talked to my supervisor and gave her my feedbacks. She did help improve the coordination process and support me. The Thursday field trip went pretty well.