We had a BrELT Chat about working abroad and a great way to start is at summer camps. We invited Danilo Ribeiro to share his experience with us and he kindly wrote some great tips. Thank you very much, Danilo!
In this post I will briefly mention the pros and cons of working at a summer camp abroad. Bear in mind that summer camps or summer schools come in different shapes and sizes depending on the country and who organizes them. Everything I will point out here is my own view on teaching at summer camps in Russia and Bulgaria, which means that camp teachers from other countries may have a different view or experience.
In a nutshell, the job entails teaching five lessons a week, monitoring students` performances, conducting extra-curricular activities in English, such as conversation classes, role-plays, presentations and chaperoning field trips. There are no course books, which means that teachers are free to either create their own resources, or to use the ones provided by the camp.
- Personal growth: Because you are teaching students from varied backgrounds, you learn to be more tolerant and respectful of other cultures and nationalities. You start to see the world from another perspective;
- Professional development: You will be teaching mostly kids and teenagers who do not speak your mother tongue. How do you cater for their needs? How do you present new language items without translating? How do you set instructions? How do you handle teen misbehavior? In addition to learning how to deal with the aforementioned questions/issues, you increase your activities repertoire; there is also a lot of sharing among teachers, which makes teaching smoother and easier;
- Extra money: Do not expect to make loads of money. However, who does not want to have some extra cash to travel or purchase something?;
- Food + accommodation: Most summer schools provide decent food and accommodation. Do not expect luxuries. In case you want some privacy, some camps allow teachers to rent their own flat or book a hotel close to the camp premises, which means spending money rather than saving;
- Student/teacher-friendly environment: The entire camp breathes happiness, so take advantage of that.
- Diseases: When you are trapped in a camp with 300 students, you will eventually get sick. In EVERY camp I have worked at, there were some viruses and/or rash going around. So make sure you always wash your hands, get enough sleep and eat well.
- Working hours: Depending on the camp, not only do you teach, but you also have a plethora of extra activities to carry out. Beware of that! You will be exhausted by day one;
- English camp x camp with English: If you work in an English-speaking environment, it is easier to set up a real English camp where the staff and the students` surroundings are all in English. However, camps in Russia and Bulgaria are what I call `Camps with English`, which means students spend most of their time doing extra-curricular activities in their mother tongue and come to the lesson for 1h30;
- Discipline issues: This is a real problem. Because some students do not want to be there, their way of expressing discontentment is by misbehaving, being aggressive or throwing tantrums. This is a complex issue. I have dealt with some discipline issues easily, just by building rapport and gaining the student`s confidence. In other cases, I have seen students being expelled. So, be prepared!
- No privacy: If you value privacy, camp teaching may not be for you. You are likely to share a room with other teachers and have your privacy violated 24/7.
Teaching at camps is a daunting task that puts teachers to test every single day. If you enjoy teaching kids and teens, and want to expand your teaching YLE repertoire, camp teaching will be an asset despite all the cons. I wish it was popular in Brazil, so that every teacher had the chance to grow professionally.
*Danilo Ribeiro holds a BA in translation and interpreting, the Celta, the Icelt and the IH CAM. He is also a speaking examiner for the main suite exams and young learners. He has taught English in Brazil and Bulgaria and is currently based in Moscow.