Initial steps

My first summer school was in 2004 when I worked in a language camp in Slovakia. A rather simple set-up, a pension in the mountains rented out to house 30 children. The dining room, disco room and games room doubled as classrooms during the day and we (there were three of us) taught in the mornings and did activities in the afternoons and evenings. I have fond memories… It was hardly back-breaking work, but I do remember putting in a good few hours.

The following year, a friend of a friend put me in contact with a UK based summer school. I put in an application as a teacher and got the job. I took the bus from Warsaw to London- I worked in Poland at the time, before the advent of budget airlines allowed us to move around economically by plane. I remember arriving at Victoria coach station in London after a 26 hour bus journey and felt the urge to telephone my summer school’s head office to confirm that I would be arriving that afternoon. I called from a payphone to say who I was and ask them if they wouldn’t mind informing the DoS at my school in Oxford that I would be getting the train soon. In reality, I managed to tell them my name before being told with some urgency that they had been trying to contact me since yesterday. Had I been elusive? Erm… I’d been on a bus covering 6 countries and was more than a little tired, but this was not the time to explain. The voice on the phone said there had been a change of plans- I had to make my way to a different summer school centre. I asked for the address and wrote it down before apologising.

I arrived at this different summer school in a different location somewhere around Oxford later that afternoon. I was introduced to the Centre Manager and the DoS who showed me to my room. I remember feeling relieved that I had arrived where I was supposed to be and in one piece. The rest of the day was a write-off. I skipped dinner and went to bed early so I was ready to start work the following morning. I knew I was employed as a teacher and in the right place, but everything else was more than a little vague. What was I going to be doing? What levels would I be teaching?

In reality, I had learnt a valuable lesson about summer school- you will find out more about your role but it will be later rather than sooner. Why? The whole operation shifts and moves very quickly and requires you to follow along, this is the very nature of the business. Those who long for set routines struggle with this. As much as you can be informed and instructed what is probably going to happen, you should always expect the unexpected and take it in your stride.

In this instance, all planning had been thrown out the window just before I arrived due to addition groups arriving at the centre. This would explain why they had told me there had been a change of plan and that I had to go to a different school. What more was there to know at this point in time? In reality, there was little more I could have been told.


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