In the Spotlight: Teacher
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What is your role at summer boarding courses?
For the last two summers, I have worked for Headington Summer School as a Teacher, teaching the General English Course and Intensive Writing as part of the English Plus syllabus. Although my main role is that of a teacher, I also help lead activities and assist the amazing House Parents with House Duty.
What’s the average day like at summer school?
There isn’t really an average day because every day is so, completely different. So my day looks like this:
If I’m on House Duty (which means helping our House Parents wake the students up, take them to and from activities, getting them to bed and generally being there for their physical and emotional wellbeing throughout the day).
|06:30||I can be ready to start waking the students up at 7:15 and checking regularly to make sure that no one’s gone back to sleep or is hogging a shower.|
|08:00||House Meeting – This is where we go through any important notices for the day, like if it’s a really sunny day making sure they’ve got sun cream for their afternoon activities or casting our votes for the student ambassador program. (If I’m not on House Duty, I get up when the students get up at around 07.15).|
|08:15||Breakfast in the canteen.|
|08:45||Teacher’s Meeting – Our daily meeting when we meet to wish each other luck for the day and to get any notices about admin or other paperwork to be done (every two weeks you need to write reports for your departing students).|
|09:00||Lesson One – A fun English lesson focused on a particular skill, but, even if it’s a grammar lesson or a reading/listening skills lesson, every lesson is 70% communication and speaking as we learn through doing.|
|11:00||Lesson Two – This lesson is something that’s unique to SBC and one of my favourite parts of the summer; prepping for Time To Shine. Time To Shine is a weekly presentation performance that takes place during Lesson Two on Sundays in our awesome theatre. We spend the week preparing group presentations on a particular theme or topic then vote in class on which group we want to see compete in the final on Sunday. Last year we had all sorts of amazing topics including improving our team building and engineering skills by designing an invention to stop an egg from cracking when dropped from a height, a film festival and some gorgeous presentations about acts of kindness. It’s not unusual for students to Skype their friends who have left so they can watch the Time To Shine Ceremony live!|
|13:30||House time – If I’m on House Duty, I walk the students back to the house and give them time to chill and get their things ready for the afternoon activities.|
|14:15||We walk them over to the Hillock and send them off for their afternoon activities.|
|14:30||Activity One – If I’m down on the rota to help lead an activity, that’s what I’ll be doing now. Over the last two years I’ve had a great time taking the students into Oxford, playing the ukulele, playing Ultimate Frisbee, doing Arts and Crafts, learning how to do Tai Chi and more. (If it’s a Wednesday and Thursday you’ll find me in my classroom teaching Intensive Writing as part of the English Plus syllabus).|
|15:45||Quick break for some.|
|16:00||Activity Two – Both staff and students get to choose their first, second and third preference for activities so that everyone gets a chance to do something they enjoy or want to try.|
|17:15||House Time – Students get time to relax, phone their parents and get ready for the evening activities.|
|20:00||Evening Activities – If I’m on the rota, I’ll be helping out with things like Challenge Night, 50/50, Trashion Show, Bowling etc|
|21:30||If I’m on House Duty, I pick the students up, walk them back and serve them juice and biscuits before we start getting ready to go to bed.|
|22:00||Lights Out – If I’m on House Duty, I do the final rounds to make sure everyone is in their rooms and asleep. But just because I’m in bed, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be woken at any time of the night if a student is unwell or is feeling homesick. If I’m not on House Duty, when I’m not on the rota for afternoon or evening activities, I’m either out for a run or I’m in my classroom, planning the next day’s lessons!|
What have you enjoyed most about working with Summer Boarding Courses?
Oh, so much to choose from! I said this in my previous interview and I still stand by it; the camaraderie is one of the highlights for me. I’ve met some of my best friends through working for SBC. Every year is a mixture of returners and first timers so the training and set up week before summer school begins is the perfect way to get to know each other. You’re pulled in right from the start and really feel like part of a special team that is putting something great together. You’ll hear jokes and stories that will make you cry with laughter while you’re backing boards in your classroom with a staple gun. The whole summer school is punctuated with special nights out which gives you even more of a chance to bond-no work talk allowed! The way that fellow staff members support each other is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in any other summer school I’ve worked in; last year the SBC Love Team wrote beautiful little notes for each of us and stuck them up on our classroom boards. I love the fact that the teacher’s role is not limited to the classroom and that we get the chance to spend more time with the students as a ‘real person.’ Even if you’ve had a tough lesson in the classroom, an afternoon of playing Ultimate Frisbee or doing drama is the perfect chance to forget all about it and start afresh. Seeing 200 teenagers from from 95 different nationalities bond and form unforgettable friendships is in itself worth the early starts and late nights.
What have you gained from working with Summer Boarding Courses?
Where to start? Confidence. Confidence in myself as a human being, confidence in myself as a teacher. If you can make a great lesson for up to 15 different nationalities in one classroom, you know that you’re in the right job. As someone who adores theatre and dance, having the Time to Shine programme as part of the SBC curriculum has been a dream for me. Helping direct the presentations and seeing it come to life before my eyes has made me realize how much I truly have missed participating in theatre and how much I wanted that back in my life. To that end, SBC gave me the courage to quit my job in a small town where I felt like my teaching was stuck in a rut and start teaching in a kindergarten, where I have my weekends free to take theatre masterclasses! I’d never done Tai Chi or played the ukulele before SBC. I can’t say that I do either of those things well now but, hey, I got the chance to try! As I said earlier, I’ve made friends for life through SBC. The summer school team can be so hit or miss. You get put into an environment where, right away, you are living 24/7 with a bunch of people you have never met before and who might be completely different from you, all doing extremely important and full on jobs. The SBC teams continue to amaze me every year.
What advice would you give to a staff member going into their first summer with SBC?
The first, most important thing, even though it might seem self-evident; READ THE JOB DESCRIPTION! If you are coming in as a teacher, don’t just assume that you will be in the classroom all day and that’s it. Familiarize yourself with the handbook, ask questions so that you know what to expect. Yes, you are a teacher, but you’re not ‘just a teacher.’ You have a duty of care for up to 200 adolescents, who will be looking to you as role models. Be prepared to help with activities, go on excursions, do House Duty and do Airport Transfers. Be ready for lots of late nights and early mornings.
On that note, the second extremely important thing I would say is, LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. Summer School is an extremely intense environment with a heavy workload and, if you don’t look after yourself, you will burn out and won’t be any good to anyone. When you have your day off, get off-site. Even if it’s just going into Headington for a Starbucks. If you are having a hard time, please talk to a fellow member of staff or your manager. There is always a solution and support available. Remember, if you’re not happy, the students won’t be happy.
What’s your favourite summer school memory?
I have 3 that will always stay with me.
The first one was a Summer 2018 Time to Shine about cross-cultural awareness. Having 72 nationalities with differing beliefs and traditions cooped up together for 5 weeks can be a bit of a minefield, so seeing all these incredible presentations ranging from a film to a flash mob letting everyone know that in this world there is absolutely no place for racism and intolerance brought tears to my eyes.
The second was the Talent Show in the 4th week. We had everything: singing, dancing, short story telling, stand-up comedy and piano and violin solos. It was so beautiful to see how talented these young people are but also, how much they genuinely enjoyed each other’s acts and supported each other.
The third one will always be the Leaving Discos. When ‘See You Again’ comes on as the traditional last song and everyone gets into a circle with our arms around each other, the love in that room makes me want to bottle it and keep it with me for those days when life gets rough.