Summer School: A Teacher’s Perspective

In my final year of university I was looking for a summer job and stumbled across Summer Boarding Courses on the Internet.  I’d enjoyed doing the Cambridge CELTA course in my second year and spent 9 months as an English Language Assistant just outside Paris during my third year so I was keen to use my teaching skills.  On top of that, after the summer I would be working as an EFL teacher in Buenos Aires, Argentina so I thought teaching with SBC would be great preparation.

Following an interview, I was convinced Summer Boarding Courses was a good fit for me.  Fast-forward to June 2009 and I was working at Dean Close International Summer School in Cheltenham.  During a week of induction, I met EFL teachers at various stages in their careers all with lots of tips and advice to share.  The first week passed by in a blur and by the second week I had been bitten by the summer school bug.   The lesson observation and workshops run by the Director of Studies were very useful and there was a really positive environment in the teachers’ prep room – a great source of new games and classroom activities that I use to this day.

Teaching at summer school is a different experience from the teaching I do in the year.  Firstly the mix of nationalities makes the task of getting the kids to speak English much easier, which is definitely a welcome change from monolingual classes (encouraging 15 teenagers to stop speaking their native language at 8pm on a Friday evening can be a challenge!  Also the (surprisingly) enormous range of life experiences a group of 14 to 15-year-olds can bring to a classroom makes for some interesting (and heated) debates.  In one lesson a 2-minute lead-in featuring a picture of a full English breakfast developed into a 60-minute discussion on the merits (or lack thereof) of British cuisine.  With students from Iran, Japan, Italy, Nigeria, China and Norway in the class it was fantastic hearing students have their say while showing respect for differing views.  I don’t think I have ever been in another environment with such a diverse mix of nationalities engaging positively with each other.

All of SBC’s summer schools are residential so teachers need to get stuck in with the pastoral side of the school, which is not something I have much involvement with when teaching abroad.  For me this is one of the best bits of summer school.  Getting to know your class and seeing them interacting with other kids at break time and on excursions is a great experience…especially if they actually remember and then use something they have learnt in your lesson.  The relationship between staff and students is particularly important at SBC Summer Schools where a lot of the kids come alone rather than in large groups. Getting the kids excited for the evening entertainment can mean anything from opening the karaoke competition with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, a dodgy staff dance to a Grease megamix at Talent Night to taking part in the staff 5-a-side team at the SBC World Cup.  As a teacher, the chance to dress up, dance to Justin Bieber (pretending not to enjoy it), get your face painted and have flour thrown all over you whilst getting paid is not one that comes by very often.  A summer with SBC is one I cannot recommend highly enough to fellow teachers and students alike.

Hannah – EFL Teacher

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