Cultural Exchange: Teaching English in Poland

For more than 30 years, Reymontówka has been a special summer destination for children in Poland; many of the children have special needs or have been raised in orphanages. It is an historic 200-year-old resort, of sorts, and a camp where children and volunteers live, play, and learn. At the heart of their learning: three-hour daily English language classes. This year, Chris Joszczyk ’25 was one of their teachers.

“Our goal was to teach the children conversational English,” Chris explains. “The energy in the classroom was always very, very high. The kids were excited to learn and play games that allowed them to practice their English language skills.”

With support from a Robert Keyes Poole '50 Fellowship, Chris traveled to Poland with Global Volunteers, an organization that welcomes volunteers from all walks of life, and of all ages. Both Chris and his mom served in Poland over the summer, sharing their experience with 60 campers and five other volunteers. During his time at Reymontówka, Chris worked directly with nine 12- to 14-year-olds each day.

“In the Polish schools, students are taught English grammar, but they are only writing the language, not speaking it,” Chris says. “They find that frustrating. Our classes were conducted completely in English, giving the kids the opportunity to hear the English words, and to practice speaking them, themselves.”

Each night, Chris developed three-hour lesson plans for the next day. Conscious of the fact that his classes were part of a summer camp, he worked to make learning fun, often introducing, modeling, and exercising English vocabulary, phrases, idioms through a variety of games.

“Preparing the lessons was actually quite a bit of a challenge,” Chris notes. “Three hours is a lot of time for teaching, but each day it ended up flying by really quickly. The kids loved playing a game called Familiada, which is a Polish version of Family Feud. If you are familiar with Family Feud, you know it can be a great way to learn and use a lot of connected words and concepts. They also enjoyed Bingo, which was an excellent way to learn numbers.”

Outside of the classroom, Chris enjoyed spending time with the campers, especially during their recreational time, when he visited parks and played soccer and other sports with them. For Chris, this was an opportunity to form deeper bonds and more meaningful connections. And in that regard, Chris had a leg up on the other volunteers: the child of Polish immigrants, Chris speaks Polish fluently.

“We remain very connected with our Polish heritage in our home—we speak it, we have Polish meals most nights,” Chris says. “It is one of the reasons I felt compelled to choose a service program in Poland somewhere, where I could connect with my family’s history and culture while really making a difference in the local community. The kids were very comfortable with me because we could communicate in both English and Polish, which I think made the experience more impactful for me and for them.”

And while Chris’s academic interests lie in the sciences—specifically in the area of quantum physics—his time in Poland has opened new pathways for him.

“I feel more confident in my abilities to lead a group of people—young people especially,” Chris says. “I also feel like teaching may be a future career for me. I hope to return to Reymontówka again next year to continue working with the campers, while continuing to develop my skills as a teacher.”

Established in memory of Robert Keyes Poole '50, Taft master from 1956 to 1962, Poole Fellowships are awarded each year to enable Taft students to engage in travel or in projects consistent with Mr. Poole's lifetime interest in wildlife and the environment.