The Realities Of TEFL At A Summer Camp.
Ah, summer! The warmer weather, the brighter skies, the longer evenings, the freedom from term time obligations. It sounds wonderful – but the long weeks that stretch ahead of you might become boring after a while, a bit non-productive and you might miss the structure and routine of school life (if not the marking!). So what’s the antidote to this? Where can you make use of your skills and keep yourself occupied? If this sounds like a familiar dilemma, then look no further than summer schools. TEFL is a valuable skill to have, and once you’ve completed your course and received your certification you’re going to have a broad range of opportunities for using it. Teaching is a profession that will never die out – indeed it’s one of the career choices that is safer from the effects of the awful pandemic than a lot of others. TEFL at a summer school is a great way to occupy yourself during the long holidays – and make some money as you do so.
Summer camps are held internationally across America, Europe, Asia and the UK. It’s not as easy as teaching in a structured school, but it’s arguably more rewarding. In the UK these camps are usually held at a residential school that’s closed for the summer, boarding schools basically, that are set up for pupil learning and accommodation. In the UK you will get students of all nationalities, but if you teach abroad, in Spain, say, then you’re likely to just get Spanish pupils.
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This will differ from camp to camp, but you’re usually looking at teaching English in a block, maybe three or four hours a day in the morning or the afternoon, with the rest of the time devoted to activities. Deciding whether or not to be campus-based is important. If you are then you can expect more inclusion, a more intense schedule and less time off. If you choose to live off-site then you get more free time, but it’s also more expensive and you’ll have a commute to do. The main reason why teachers prefer to stay off-site is to give themselves a bit of headspace away from the camp to re-energise in the morning.
You can probably expect an induction meeting with the Director of Studies, possibly with other teachers, possibly not. You’ll go over the basics of the role, you’ll be shown around campus, where you can access resources and materials and be given guidance on how to structure a class. It’s good for learning the layout and becoming familiar with your working environment for the next few weeks. The contracts differ in length, but they’re generally between two and six weeks, depending on how long you want to be there.
You’ll still have some orientation scheduled and you’ll meet the group leaders, these are the adults who have travelled with their group of children from their home country. They’re usually staff or teachers from a language academy or school and specific to TEFL. However their role at a summer camp is likely to be just pastoral, a familiar point of contact for the children if they’re upset or homesick or just very excited about how well they’ve learned something!
For the students there will be placement tests and then the classes created.
The Teaching Itself.
If you’re on campus, great, if not then you’ll generally be expected at around 8:30am, ready for a 9am start. The classes are small, usually no more than 15 pupils, which gives you plenty of time to focus on child as necessary – there’s always someone needing attention! You’ll use lots of Powerpoint presentations as standard, all pre-prepared, and the themes will differ day to day. Students are given a planner so they can keep track of everything.
Apart from teaching, there will also be activities to run in the afternoon and one full day at the weekend. You won’t be responsible for planning the activities, like shopping or playing sports, that will all be down to the activities manager, so it’s just left to you to enjoy them!
One cohort of students normally stay two weeks and the rota remains the same for the following two weeks, et al. So try and put bits in there that you enjoy and also make a note of which lessons or activities the pupils seemed to like the best – it will make your life easier!
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Professional development opportunities.
Honestly speaking, they probably aren’t that great here. The role is a pretty limited one and most people are working at the same level so there isn’t progression through the ranks, so to speak. You can observe other classes to see different teaching styles, and get feedback on your own, but there probably won’t be time for CPD meetings.
This is one of the best parts, getting out and about to places that you may not have visited on your own. Plus, it’s great for getting to know the students outside of the classroom. Creating more of a bond with them will make it easier to teach them.
Being honest, this is probably a major part of deciding to work at a summer camp. Termtime employment is all very well, but it does leave the long stretch of summer unpaid and working as an EFL teacher at a camp over those weeks can bridge the gap nicely. A standard salary is between £200-£400 per week. It’s a non-management, residential possibilities and it’s great for gathering experience together to help you move forward in your career.