Essential Skills Summer Schools Look for in Applicants

Essential Skills Summer Schools Look for in Applicants

There are a few ways to go about making your first impression in the TEFL world. You could opt to move abroad straight after becoming qualified, and have your first class in front a set of school pupils. You could find yourself in language school somewhere, with adults hanging on to your every word. You might be online, signing in for your first one-to-one lesson. There’s no wrong answer.

One way a lot of TEFL teachers really like is teaching at a summer school. Usually, these schools are for teenagers who are looking to have fun and practice their English. Summer schools are a great introduction to TEFL, and to living abroad if you choose to travel and work at a summer school. These are adventures that can become careers, and they’re the kind of career experiences that employers absolutely love. 

Right now, you’re wondering “what skills do I need to be a superstar summer school TEFL teacher?”. Well, we’re going to tell you, and if you can list these skills in your teaching arsenal, then it might be worth blocking out the summer months in your calendar.

Sound good? Let’s take a look.

Skill number 1: Teamwork

They say “teamwork makes the dream work”. We’ll get to how that quote actually ends later, but the rather dated adage is true: collaboration is a good thing. Being able to co-operate with other teachers and team members at a summer school is incredibly important.

Everyone is there to learn, after all. Students at summer schools are usually teenagers, and have probably been learning English for years, but they haven’t had English conversations with people outside their immediate peer group or their teacher. Meanwhile, TEFL teachers at summer schools are usually very new. They’ve likely just finished a TEFL course and are figuring out who they are as teachers. So, as teachers, you’re all starting at the deep end, and you need to work together and create a positive environment.

Networking is really important, community building with other teachers is fantastic for learning and modifying your methodology, and it’s important to meet people from different backgrounds. You should already have inter-personal skills that you can utilise in the summer school environment that help you to collaborate on fun tasks and activities for the students. Using the summer to test these skills in priceless. 

“All our staff has to work as a team. Our camps accommodate between 40 and 100 (depends on size of venue) camp participants (ages 7-12; 13-18), so the collaboration with the counsellors is key to the success of the program. People who are flexible when working with others and are always willing to help others are desirable candidates for Diverbo.”   - Germán, Pueblo Inglés

“Teachers who share their ideas with one another, collaborate as a team and display resourcefulness.”   - Peter from XUK

Skill number 2: Leadership

We told you we’d finish that quote from earlier. “Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team”, said John Maxwell in his 2002 book titled - you guessed it! - Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Now, firstly: a “bad” team isn’t a team of incompetent teachers, or anything like that! A bad team is a team that’s disorganised, and isn’t necessarily sure of the roles and responsibilities within a group. How do we apply that to summer school teaching? Easy: your “team” is your group of students, and to an extent, your fellow teachers.

Yes, it’s more than likely your first teaching role. Also, as we said, you’ll be collaborating with other teachers, coming up with fun exercises and experiences for the students. You will, however, have to lead. You’ll need to observe students, and figure out how proficient they are. You need to organise tasks. Yes, it’s a fun, summery environment, but you have to control the class.

You don’t need to be ultra-competitive with other teachers, you don’t need to be a stern taskmaster. Leadership, though, is a really important trait for a teacher. Summer school is a great environment to develop that trait.

Every counsellor is responsible for an assigned group in our camps. They manage and take care of the group, being a role model for the children/teens. Therefore, they must assess and assist the group, help foster positive relationships, provide guidelines and enforce camp rules, ensure a safe environment at all times and always show professionalism in their work.

Furthermore, they have to monitor and follow up the participants evolution and development during the week, not only of his/her own group but of the whole group of campers.”   - Germán, Pueblo Inglés

Skill number 3: Ability to teach young learners

Summer schools are typically for teenagers and young kids, meaning that it can be a pretty intense teaching situation to walk into!

If it’s a residential summer school/camp - they often are - then you won’t really just be a teacher. You’ll need to be able to counsel kids, keep them entertained and engaged, be a shoulder to cry on when needs be, and in general, be a positive role model. These kids will see you as a English learning role model - you want to give them positive, lasting memories so they can associate learning the language with a fun and happy experience.

It’s useful to have an Advanced TEFL certificate in teaching young learners if you’re heading to a summer school for children up to the age of 10. Whatever age group you teach, it helps to be well-versed in methodologies that have proven results with young learners. Total physical response (TPR) , for example, is really useful for mixed-ability learners, as it involves assigning actions to words and phrases.

Fun, memorable lessons, ability to understand students’ needs and recognition of the fact that your behaviour leaves a lasting impression - these are all crucial components of a positive summer school experience.

Skill number 4: Problem solving

Teaching kids can be a lot of fun. They’re generally more willing to play games , sing songs and take part in creative activities like arts and crafts, or mime. 

Kids will always need you to be at your most attentive as any parent will tell you. There’ll be problems along the way. How you react to challenges is crucial. Problem solving is a major attribute to have when you’re teaching at summer school.

You’re likely a new teacher. So, use this experience to find out what your triggers are for stress, or what makes you feel flustered. Yes, this can be tough at first - a bit like exposure therapy - but it’s a really useful thing to find out about yourself. If you can find these triggers, you can also find ways to manage, and that means you can problem solve more effectively long-term.

Agility and versatility are ideal strengths for a teacher. Problems will arise, and being able to negotiate these problems with quick thought and action is important. It’s also where the teamwork skills we talked about come into play - having colleagues who understand you and understand typical teaching problems is super helpful. Similarly, you may need to help a fellow teacher if they’re having some kind of problem!

“The right candidate must be able to find solutions to potential and unforeseen problems. As a responsible part of our staff, the counsellors must be able to cope with any unexpected situations that might arise in the camp and deal with these obstacles.  Our goal is to ensure the smooth progress of the camp as well as the safety and satisfaction of the participants (and their parents).” - Germán, Pueblo Inglés

Skill number 5: Creativity

Although recent research suggests boredom can actually be good for kids , if you’re teaching at a summer school and your students are finding your lessons tedious… well, it’s not great.

A good rule about the material you’re teaching is if you’re bored, chances are they’re bored, too. Summer schools are meant to be inspiring, challenging and - above all - creative! Your students shouldn’t be sitting and writing for 6 hours a day when they’re on a summer camp or in summer school, they need to be active and challenging themselves.

Songs, arts and crafts, poems, plays: whatever works! Creating and nurturing a fun learning environment means that your students will go on to learn English with more enthusiasm, because they associate the language with the memories they made in summer school.

“(We like) teachers who can create fun and engaging lessons, thinking outside of the box and the classroom!”  - Peter, XUK

“Our summer camps aren’t school. We want to give our students a summer to remember, while also giving them language skills they’ll remember too. So, our teachers need to be dynamic, inspiring, and creative. We focus a lot on games, theatre, and songs to generate the emotions that we believe can be a great vehicle for learning. So, we want teachers who can think outside of the box and make the learning experience as unique and special for the students as possible.” - Kieran, ACLE

What have we learned?

Summer schools are meant to be enjoyable for students and teachers alike. There’s also enormous educational benefit and for many teachers, summer schools are the start of a brilliant career. For students, a positive experience at an English-speaking summer school/camp can lead to a lifelong passion for the language.

There are loads of amazing summer school opportunities out there, whether you’re a new teacher or more experienced, and they’re fantastic on a CV. Employers like teachers who can think outside the parameters of the classroom, are willing to travel and live elsewhere, and can establish lasting relationships with fellow teachers.

Whether it’s your first step on the TEFL ladder, or you want to try out a totally new teaching experience, we can’t recommend summer schools enough. If you’re interested, try out some of the opportunities listed on our summer school page .

Want to get started in TEFL but you aren’t sure how? Take our TEFL course quiz and get the answers you need!

Peter Northcroft, Regulation & Staffing Manager at XUK

"XUK has run summer camps for over 20 years. Graded Outstanding by Ofsted & accredited with the BAC. We have been rated one of the top camps in the UK with a great mix of international & English children. XUK English offers English language tuition, exciting activities & cultural study trips for international students. XUK Activity offers a fabulous range of activities, trips and fun for children & teens. XUK Excel is our specialist camp where children focus on a specific area of interest."

Kieran Fitzpatrick, Recruitment Officer and former tutor at Associazione Culturale Linguistica Educational (ACLE)

ACLE is a non-profit organisation accredited by the Italian Ministry of Education and the World TEFL Accrediting Committee. ACLE has over 30 years of experience in the language-teaching and language-learning sector.
Each summer the association trains and places more than 350 English tutors in camps to teach English to Italian children and teenagers. Our TEFL-TP program is a unique opportunity to enhance your CV by learning how to teach through games, sports, drama and songs all taught at our orientation. It is also a great summer experience where you will meet people from around the world, enjoy all that Italy has to offer, and make amazing memories for you and the children you meet.

Germán García, Recruiting Manager at Diverbo-Pueblo Inglés

"Every year, we look for native/bilingual English speakers who want to have fun working as counsellors in Spain in summer and help our Spanish participants learn English. Last year we hired over 200 people for the month of July, had 18 different venues and over 3,000 participants, including Spanish and international teenagers and younger children.

We usually start recruiting new candidates by the month of March and our programmes are carried out in July in different regions of Spain."

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