Looking around, you’ll see that many TEFL jobs run from September/October – June. Now, while this is great for creating space to fulfil your every travel want and desire, it does beg the question ‘what do I do with 3 months off in the summer?’ Read on for our guide to a balanced TEFL summer
It’s worth starting to look into your summer options early, and planning ahead with summer jobs usually advertised from January. There’s an almost limitless supply of TEFL work in summer camps around the world, primarily working with teenagers but also with growing numbers of children’s and adult courses too, so it’s worth considering the type that’s right for you. Priority number 1 is to think about location – do you want to take this opportunity to be based near family and/or friends? Or is this your chance to spend a month working in a mountain camp in Europe? Connected to this is also the question of accommodation. Many summer camps are residential, where staff are provided with meals and board as part of their package, but there are also options available for non-residential work. While the non-residential work pays more, you’ll need to factor in your living and travel costs when doing the maths.
Having decided where and what, you’ll also need to be realistic about how long you want to work for. While on the one hand, 2 months of summer school work, saving your salary because you’re residential and have no expenses, might seem like a great idea for topping up your savings, you need to be realistic about balancing your time. Summer school is tiring, and you need to make sure you have time to catch up with family and friends and recharge before heading into the new school year. Summer school contracts tend to range from anything from 2 weeks to 3 months, depending on the type of work, so be honest with yourself about how much you really want / need to work over the summer. Speaking of how much work you need, also put some thought into how you will be paid. Many UK based summer schools, for example, will only pay into a UK bank account, so make sure you can receive a salary efficiently before you start… for all the fun and games summer work offers, you’re there to earn some money!
When looking at job adverts, you’ll see many different types of role appearing, with everything from course directors to recreation staff, houseparents to teachers. For the vast majority of people working in TEFL, the teaching roles are what they aim for. But keep in mind that teaching at a residential summer school often includes helping out in boarding houses, getting involved in recreation activities and leading students on excursions – never a dull moment! You’ll find out lots more about what your role involves at interview stage and also at the induction days that most summer schools run. Induction days are a chance to get to know the centre, the role and your colleagues so when you’re organising your arrival, make sure you’re aware of any induction you might need to attend prior to the start date.
During induction, you’ll find out a lot more about courses, levels and planning. Keep in mind that summer school often has a different focus to your year-round work, and you’ll most likely be working with students for a shorter amount of time. Some summer schools have syllabuses and materials that you follow, others are topic or project based and growing numbers are offering exam preparation. Make sure you’re clear on what the aims and expectations are and stick to what you’re asked to do – with students and teachers coming and going on a weekly basis, it’s important for everyone to know what’s been covered and where students are up to.
Speaking of coming and going, summer school is a great place for networking and many teachers return to the same centres year after year for what is effectively a school reunion! A summer school staffroom is often a melting pot of teachers flying in from around the world, and a great place to find out more about work in different countries and get an insider view on a place you’re interested in. Everyone knows someone in the world of TEFL, and as well as finding unexpected common connections, you’re also likely to get to know some really great people through your summer experience. Returning to the same centre or company is also often a fantastic way to start stepping into more senior roles. Many an EFL teacher gets their first experience of academic management as a senior teacher over the summer, or starts to branch out into year round boarding school work by becoming a house parent at summer school.
After all this hard work is done, it’s important for you to know how to get references from you employer. This can be a bit of a complicated one as, while all employers should be able to offer you a reference confirming you worked for them, they may not be able to give a more detailed reference about you and your work. The answer to this could be to ask your summer Director of Studies or Centre Manager to provide you with a reference, but keep in mind that some potential employers won’t contact a referee who doesn’t have a company email address, so it’s worth having both options available.
Finally, remember that summer isn’t all about work! Summer school itself can be great fun and the people who enjoy it most are usually those that throw themselves into the experience and get involved in what’s going on around them. But it’s also important to remember to keep some time for yourself during the summer. The break should be a chance for you to relax and take time out, so remember to balance work and play and include time in the summer to do all those things you’ve been putting off during the school year!