Life as a Camp Leader by Lamorna Ash
Douglas - Oppidan Camp ‘Poetry Laureate.' Easter Camp 2018
Many might think that this camp is just more work.
However really it is a big thump-on-the-knee.
Oppidan is just like doing art work.
With Dragon’s Den you can make your own company.
And with languages, history, poetry tests, capture the flag, human charades.
It is positive to make your last vocally cracking games probability like Ludo.
Oppidan is sure to make you explore the wonders of our adventurous brains.
Socially, rather than academic war and destroys our fears for our future aims.
Oppidan is a bulging chance to win. Never something you should consider and bin.
When I was told I was going to the Oppidan Camp, I thought it would be like school or having a tutor. It was not.
Take maths. We were taught by students who were the same age as us. This was good because they understood the way we think.
The child teachers would write on a white board. We were encouraged to make suggestions for solving problems. What I liked is that we were in a relaxed environment. We sat on sofas.
We managed to cover almost a whole year’s lessons in an hour — or at least that is what it felt like. What was exciting for me is I learnt all about pi, and measuring the diameter and circumference of circles.
In languages, it was impossible to hide our weaknesses. We stood up in a circle, and one of the tutors would ask us to translate Latin and French vocab. If we got it wrong, we would lose a life. And after we lost two lives, we would have to sit down.
It felt like a game.
Then we were put into teams of three people. We were lucky that a boy in my team was bilingual in French. Each was given a Latin or French word. We had to write down all the declensions. The first team to finish got a point. My team came second.
In public speaking, we were told to research whether social media had a good or bad impact on the world. I think that social media is negative, but I had to argue the positive side of it.
One of my team did the introduction to the debate. I did the middle part: I made six points. Then it was an open debate, and we talked in a more relaxed way.
I learnt the important thing is to stay quiet and listen to what others are saying. Because then you can make an important point and win.
Outside, we did orienteering. There was an assault course where balloons filled with water were fired at us. Twice we played “Capture the flag”. I dodged all the teachers. The team I was on always won. And I captured more flags than anyone else.
The most enjoyable session of the week was Dragons’ Den. In my team of three, we spent the first hour inventing our business, making a plan, and designing a logo.
Our idea was an app with recipes for how to use waste food. We were each given £300,000 to create our companies.
The mistake we made was we were too loud in criticising other businesses. We did manage to raise money from one of the Dragons. But we were told that we could not win the contest, because we were not respectful enough.
We slept in tents. Before bed we roasted S’mores and told scary stories. I loved Camp Oppidan and want to go back.
I started as a mentor with Oppidan whilst completing law school in London. I needed a job that fitted alongside my studies, so flexibility was crucial, and Oppidan very much fitted the bill. I had actually been babysitting for an agency in London (their only male babysitter!) and, as much as this was a great experience, I soon realised that mentoring for Oppidan was a more time-efficient job which I found ultimately more rewarding. Since finishing law school in June 2017 and with my training contract with a City law firm starting in February 2018, I have begun mentoring more and more for Oppidan over the last 6 months. And I have loved every moment of it! Finding myself on a mentoring job in Florida for a week, sitting on the beach in 30-degree heat whilst London was freezing, actually made me think twice about swapping the impending long hours sat in a dark, gloomy City office for more experiences mentoring on a warm beach!
So, what’s it like as a mentor for Oppidan? A few words spring to mind straight away: interesting, fun, different and, occasionally, inexplicably amazing.
The first thing that struck me about Oppidan was that you’re called a mentor, not a tutor. Mention the ‘t’ word and you’ll receive a stern look and correction from anyone at Oppidan. Perhaps cynically I thought this seemed like a trivial marketing ploy, but once you speak to Walter and Henry (the passionate founders of Oppidan) you begin to realise that they’ve found a subtle, yet fundamental difference in education that highlights what can be wrong with one-on-one support for children.
You may ask yourself, what is the difference? Well, it’s a little bit like answering the question, what’s the difference between a manager and a leader? The best analogy I’d use is to imagine a group of 12 people pulling a big stone along a road. A manager sits on top of the stone and tells the group how and what to do. A leader will also tell the group how and what to do, but will do so whilst pulling from the front of the group, showing them how and guiding them towards their objective. In many ways, I feel this is the same with tutors and mentors: tutors teach, mentors teach by leading - a subtle yet incredibly powerful difference to a mentee.
I remember my favourite teachers at school were the ones I looked up to and could relate to – they were mentors, not just tutors. This has a massive effect on the children you mentor that has enormous long-term implications as they progress through their schooling.
Secondly, the team at Oppidan are fantastic. I had known both Walter and Henry before I started mentoring, so maybe I’m a little biased, but the passion they have for Oppidan and the services they provide, as well as education in general, is remarkable. They are both incredibly knowledgeable and two of the most naturally gifted mentors I’ve seen in action. However, the day-to-day point of contact at OE is the wonderful Tilly, who is always available to answer all questions and queries. As a team, from my experience, they are incredibly supportive to their mentors. They explain everything, from first meeting a new mentee, to model lesson plans, to how their charge out rates work.
One thing that I really like is the fact that Oppidan don’t take advantage of the mentor by adding on large commission to the price they charge the client for your services. They keep a flat rate no matter what your rate is or how many hours you do. This means you can earn a fairer and generally higher rate compared to other agencies, who might have you on a lower rate as they have a higher fee. In my opinion, this is better for both the mentor and the client. They also get to know their mentors really well, asking about their styles of teaching, their personalities and interests, and their strengths and weaknesses. They then repeat a similar process when talking to Oppidan’s clients. This means they can then match a suitable mentor to each mentee, and this immediately makes the mentor’s job easier, and increases the chances of a really successful partnership going forward.
Finally, the opportunities Oppidan offers are incredible, both domestically and abroad. If you’ve got some free time during the school holidays, there are always some amazing jobs to exotic countries all over the world. I have been lucky enough to travel out to Florida with a great family in my time and, although I was carrying out some intensive mentoring, I had time off to explore the area and get the all-important winter tan. During the summer, I was able to work at one of Oppidan’s Summer EduCamps. It was the sort of camp I would have relished as a child; nothing like the ones run by senior schools or big organisations that I used to go to. There’s a focus on a child’s enjoyment and teaching vital life skills that will be beneficial to them as they go on with life, from good manners and proper etiquette, to how to cook and debate, to how to catch a water balloon from 50 metres away – the list is endless. The atmosphere on the minibus back to London after the camps says it all – laughter turns to a quiet murmur, then turns to silence, as everyone, including yours truly, falls off to sleep. The excitement and fun catches up with us all!
To sum up, working as a mentor at Oppidan has been a fantastic experience for me personally. It’s the perfect job for those looking for flexibility and working with children supports core values and principles that are applicable in pursuing other career paths. With the advantage of relative youth, as a mentor, I have been able to offer advice and direction to school children, away from the targets of school work, which I hope will have given them the structure and support they have needed to progress throughout their years at school.
By Charlie Goodwin
Over this Summer’s Half Term, Walter and I had the good fortune to team up with The Peligoni Club in Greece to mentor for their Half Term week. The idea was simple: to create a dynamic environment in which to revise, to assist different ages and levels and to incorporate the easy-going ethos of The Peligoni into our teaching time with students.
With a beautiful location and perfect weather for the week, our job was made easy. A long list of academic and sporting challenges included poetry workshops for 11+ boys, GCSE revision for teenage girls and Maths on the tennis court for some early teen boys. Walter brilliantly put together an assortment of Maths challenges to be served up over the net, while I made the most of our Oppidan Poetry anthology with some sharp and enthusiastic 11+ pupils. With such a spread of ages and levels, the task seemed a tough one at first, but was soon made easier by such polite, hardworking and energetic children all around the club.
Our week at The Peligoni proved a brilliant start to a wonderful partnership with the great Peli team. It also showed that mentoring ‘out-and-about’ is the best way to work constructively in holiday time. The Peli was a perfect place to enjoy our mentoring work and we hope our students found their mornings less a chore, more a fun way to make the most of holiday time.
We look forward to heading back to the club next summer and with planning well underway, there should be a few more joint projects for the Oppidan/Peligoni partnership. Our deepest thanks go to all the Peli team both in London and Greece, and most of all, to our dedicated students, all of whom we so enjoyed getting to know and look forward to seeing again.