As mentioned earlier last month, I picked up a temporary position as a camp counselor at a local college here in the San Francisco area. What I thought to be my first teaching gig turned out to what amounted an activity leader for 100 awesome Italian high school students.
Let me start from the beginning: a couple days before the kids arrived I met with my boss from Italy and one of my co-workers. That was when I found out it wasn’t a teaching position. Damn all that hype about me actually getting some experience in the field went down. But then I was cool and collected myself and made a promise to myself that perhaps this assignment would yield great rewards to myself personally and emotionally.
Boy was I going to be amazed.
At first it was unnerving. I remember in the first couple of nights trying to sleep, instead I was staring at the ceiling thinking that I was in way over my head. Even with my technical training and life experience this was certainly something new, exciting, and certainly a little unnerving.
There’s a lot to be said of my experience, so I decided to break it up into several different parts to make my trains of thought easier.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
I was hired by a third party company called Summer Camp Recruit. They in turn were working for the Italian sub-division of a UK company called International Quest, who holds English Summer camps in the UK, USA, Canada, and a couple other different countries. In this case, for the year of 2012, the site that I was at hosted 100 Italian high school students from various parts of the Italy. Everyone of them paid 2 grand just to come to the United States (many for the first time in their lives) to study and to use their English in a setting where they would have to use it.
The median age was 16, many of these kids are already English students back in their home country. What I discovered throughout the two weeks from both teachers and students is that the program(s) and the results of the teaching in Italy is similar to language programs here in the states. In Italy students begin learning English just before they hit middle school; at about 10 years of age. However like in the states, a lot of the teachers who taught English have very little experience living in an English-speaking country in their years before becoming a teacher. They would also be teaching the kids a lot of “classical” English material – I was talking to one of them (who would become my favorite teacher in the group) and she often liked Shakespeare and the more classical British and American authors and artists and gave that to the kids. Great education however a little lacking on the practical side. Which is the main reason why this group is here in SF.
What I’ve come to realize is that teenagers are the same in every culture on Earth. Same type of moods, wants, needs, gossip, and dynamic. The only different is well the culture and language spoken. The Italians were no different, with a few exceptions. The jocks here in the America are primarily the football players – in Europe it is the Soccer players. English is taught starting from age 10 or 11 – earlier than most American students and is mandatory. The level of competency however differs from each individual. There are some with years of English instruction yet it takes effort for the myself and my co worker to help them put together meaning. While there are others who have no accent to their English and all they need is information on American slang.
My boss is originally from Palermo, a city in Northern Sicily. An attractive 40 something single mother, she will prove to be an entertaining, frustrating, head-scratching, awe-inspiring, headstrong, interesting, and unforgettable experience and boss to work with. During that time I was also with two women who I lived with named *BrownEye and *BlondeOne. at 19 and 22 years old respectively, I will later discover that they unfortunately have the stereotypical limited, American viewpoint of things (whereas I actually did some research as how to work with Italians). My relationship with my boss will eventually be a good one, with my two other camp counselors not so much.
Now that I have laid the foundation, next up I will be talking about the places that I took them to and the events that were planned for them.