After yesterday’s more depressing themed 5 worst things about teaching in a summer school, I thought I’d change the focus on to the 10 best things about teaching at a summer school. I’m sure you’ve had some similar experiences teaching at a summer school so please do add your favourite things about teaching at a summer school to the list.
1. Meeting some great students
Although the experience of being constantly surrounded by kids isn’t the greatest, the fact that there are so many kids around means that you do meet some very amazing student. I came across a couple who had the most amazing accents (I almost didn’t believe they weren’t British) I have ever come across. Then there were groups who loved acting, reading, drawing and many other forms of expression. Not only that but there were many who were really enthusiastic about learning and wanted to seize every chance they could get to learn.
As I said yesterday I had a great time visiting some wonderful places in Britain that I probably wouldn’t if I weren’t at the summer school and even if some of the kids don’t appreciate these sites some of them do.
3. Teaching out of your comfort zone
Although it can be tiring and stressful teaching some many students who have such different problem areas of learning, it is also extremely rewarding when you have a break through moment and see a difference in the student. Of course, having the advice of teachers who are from a variety of different contexts and different experience really helps as well.
As I briefly mentioned above the collaborative element of teaching can be fantastic at summer school. When you all share your problems, share what worked well, co-ordinate ideas so they all flow together, and share a joke or two about teaching. When you have a great teaching team then it really is great to be teaching together and not just teaching the same class all day.
During my time in Oxford I managed to attend a tweet up with other #eltchat-ers. Although Tweet ups aren’t inherent to Summer schools (most teachers I know didn’t have a tweet up) being back in the UK and being able to meet up with people who are in the UK for the summer was something I wouldn’t really have been able to do with out the summer school.
6. Food and accommodation included
Having food and accommodation provided in addition to salary helps not just financially but also time wise. Not having to search for accommodation as well as the time saved not having to go to and from a flat and cook adds up. Admittedly we did have to do extra wardening duties to pay for these services so they aren’t really full. (Please note: The food might not meet the standard of good old home cooking though!)
7. Open Mic Nights
I knew from the previous year that some of the teachers enjoyed playing music live and performed but having a group of 5 of us who regularly went to open mic events was really great. I hadn’t played at an open mic night for a couple of years but somehow found the courage to go up straight away…and immediately forget the words and chords to the songs I wanted to play! Despite the initial misadventures I recovered and found a great release from the school environment.
8. Experimentation when teaching
Summer schools can be a great chance to experiment with teaching style, materials and resources. I took up the opportunity to strip back a lot of my teaching approaches to a material light and, especially, technology light approach. This was partially due to demand (I had no wi-fi access to use certain internet resources in the class and no projector either) but also a deliberate choice to not conform to my usually mistake of taking in too many materials to first classes with new students.
9. Multilingual classrooms
Perhaps one of the nicest features at a summer school (or any teaching situation where there is a spread of nationalities, is Multilingual classrooms. After a year of policing any infringement of L1 in the classroom the joy of knowing that even if you’ve just given the worst instructions in the world, they have to ask each other in English is really great (not that I give the worst instructions in the world…) Of course, sometimes there are situations where there are so many of one nationality (who inevitably want to sit next to each other) that seating does become an issue. And what would life be without a group of fluent German/Russian (but only elementary English) speakers who make it actually impossible to not have a fluent speakers next to each other.
10. The pay
Perhaps it’s not that surprising that when students are coming from all over the world to Britain to learn they end up paying more and this gets passed on to the teachers. However, it isn’t just great for us foreign teachers who come back during the summer but also for other teachers. I met a teacher who had never had a full-time job since leaving university (though had done plenty of volunteer work), having the chance to actually get paid while working was really great and I know she appreciate not being on Job seekers allowance (something I remember all to well for a few years ago!)
I hope you’ll understand a bit more about why I love teaching in a summer school. I certainly wouldn’t want to teach in one all year but I have enjoyed my last two summers at one.