How the smartest kid at English camp sees their future
Due to doing a good job with the high-level middle school kids at last camp, I got to teach high-level kids again this camp. Doing a good job with the high-level kids is considered important, because high-level kids have high-level parents with influence and vocal opinions.
That’s fine with me, as I love teaching bright kids. Teaching low-level kids can be rewarding, but I love working with kids with smart minds and imaginative ideas and high personal expectations and weird, quick senses of humour. Teaching them has its own challenges, although those challenges usually don’t relate to learning English. For that, you set them difficult but achievable goals, give them honest feedback but not excessive praise, then stand back and watch them do amazing things. Instead, the challenges relate to helping them learn how to navigate their own paths socially, intellectually, and in society.
This time I was teaching elementary kids, rather than middle school kids. There was another difference. Last time, there were only two middle school classes, so I was teaching the top fifty percent of students. But there were nine elementary school classes, and I had the top class, so these kids were the best of the best. In four years in teaching in Korea, I’ve never had a class so highly selected. Usually, even the smartest classes are a mixed bunch. These kids weren’t just good at English; they were fiercely, intimidatingly bright. Even so, one girl stood out as the smartest.
So, what’s the smartest kid at English camp like?
The smartest kid at English camp doesn’t bother trying to crack the cipher in the English puzzle book – she just looks at the word lengths and deduces the correct answer from context in a few seconds, without even looking at the code.
The smartest kid at English camp makes a papier-mache dingo from balloons and cardboard that looks like a real dingo, lying in repose, its tail curled around its body and its head alert and ready for action.
The smartest kid at English camp has never lived overseas, but writes English considerably better than most native speakers her age. I’m not just talking correct grammar – I mean elegant phrasing and insightful, sensitive prose.
The smartest kid at English club finds a cheat sheet that a university student has scrawled on the back of a chair. She copies it onto a piece of scrap paper, then copies it from that into her personal notebook, because it might be useful one day.
The smartest kid at English camp was only second in her year at school, and views it as a brutal personal failure.
The smartest kid at English camp is the worst in the class at the morning word tests, because she translates the words according to her own knowledge, and not according to the “correct” answers they’re supposed to study each day.
The smartest kid at English camp, when asked to complete the textbook sentence, “I don’t have…”, writes “freedom”.
The smartest kid at English camp, when asked to use the future tense to make a comic about their future life, could do a fantastic job of it if she wanted to, but instead does this and slips it on to your desk for you to find the next day: