I’ve been involved in summer schools since I got into the English language teaching game in the early 2000. Although I’ve done practically every conceivable role in a summer centre, I’ve mostly worked as a Director of Studies (DoS).
I said ‘involved in’ summer schools because I haven’t actually worked in a dedicated residential summer centre for the last few years. Not that I would have actually been able to work last year; COVID restrictions have meant the doors have been firmly closed.
Unlike other sectors in the English teaching industry, summer school cannot really be done virtually because lessons are only one part of what is offered. It complements the experiences students get outside the classroom when they go on an excursion, or the friendships that are made while playing football or attending a disco.
It’s worth noting that for those of us who have worked in a summer school teaching centre, we might presume that English lessons are at the forefront of wants and needs. However, if you have ever had a conversation with a group leader*, they may have told you that the excursions and activities are the most important part of the summer school experience. A similar conversation with a different group leader might you to receive the opposite message. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
What is not debatable is that quality is created by enthusiastic staff. That ordinary lesson is made extraordinary by that teacher who is able to think outside the box and tap into what students like and find meaningful. That excursion to an important landmark is brought to life by that activity leader who tells the story of its history and significance.
Up to a few weeks ago, it was thought there wouldn’t be any summer schools running this year. However, that this has quickly changed, and I’ll be joining a team in few days from now. I won’t be a DoS and may only do some teaching, among other jobs, but I’m happy to be back in an environment I’m very familiar with.
For the moment, I’m focused on getting ready. All necessary paperwork has been filled in and submitted and I’m about to start packing. I’m packing a small-ish bag; travelling light- famous last words… And in a few days, I’ll be on my way. Oh, that reminds me, I better get a new toothbrush.
*A group leader is an adult who is employed by a travel agency to represent a group of young learner students.