Boost your experience and supplement your salary – 5 tips for summer school teaching

Financially, I just couldn’t get through another year without a salary during the summer so, after toying with the idea for a few years, I decided to do a placement at a summer school.

I was fortunate to have lovely students and like-minded teaching colleagues – essential to making teaching at a summer school a rewarding and stimulating experience.

Annie SurdiI must admit though that I found my first experience of summer school teaching intense and exhausting at times! But having successfully completed the 6-week course, here are some top tips I would like to share to help others get the most out of their summer placement:

1. Compare summer schools to find one that suits your strengths and interests. I’m not big on conducting sporting activities, so I opted for a summer school with a strong focus on classroom teaching.

2. Seek out reviews or feedback from past teaching staff where possible. The setting, from the location through to how the school was organised was not exactly what I had anticipated, although I eventually got my bearings.

3. Be clear about the school’s expectations of staff, and who you can go to for support. My 6-week contract consisted of double teaching, which I coordinated with another teacher.

Summer school students

4. Plan in adequate preparation time, and ask for support if your workload gets too heavy. During my placement the school introduced some evening activities to give teachers the chance to mingle with fellow students. A nice initiative in theory, but in reality the time spent doing these activities ended up cutting into my lesson preparation and free-time!

5. Adopt an open, communicative approach with your students and fellow staff. Remember, the concept of a summer school is to create a fun and pleasant environment for both students and teachers – the above is key to this!

Written by Annie Surdi, an international teacher who has lived and worked in Honduras, Australia, and Italy.

Who are you? – Identity and my experience in Tanzania

If I asked you to use one word, how would you define yourself to others? Are you a Canadian, an American, a Maritimer or a Californian?

Perhaps you’re of First Nations heritage and you recognise your tribe as being the group that you most associate with your identity. Maybe your first response would be Catholic, Muslim or Rastafarian. Or maybe your response would be brother, wife or husband of…

This article is taken from a collection of weekly stories that I posted to friends, family, and those who became interested through word of mouth about my year in Tanzania (2008) as a volunteer teacher in a Maasai village.

Shannon Howlett in TanzaniaI know that the answer to this question depends on the context that we are in. If I’m in Canada and asked that question I might say that I’m a Maritimer. When abroad, I’m proudly Canadian. If you’re a mother, perhaps you tend to select that identity above all others, regardless of where you find yourself geographically. Here in Tanzania, one of the first questions asked by my new African friends is “Are you married?” or “Do you have children?” – as it is motherhood and marriage that most define your role in society. They have difficulty accepting when I answer “bado” (not yet) in Swahili, as traveling the world and volunteering are not high on their priority list!

I am finding that my perceptions of people from other cultures have changed drastically…in a good way. I have always been fascinated by the differences that separated me from people of distant lands, but I have now become much more conscious and appreciative of the threads that weave us together. The women passing me on the street covered head to toe in traditional burkas, the amputee begging on the side of the road, the Maasai women with shaved heads, elaborate dresses and their babies strapped to their backs don’t feel nearly as different from me as they once did.

Maasai women in Tanzania

I have friends from all over the world here and yet as we sit together sharing stories and experiences it’s easy to forget that we represent so many different nations. Other than a few slight differences in accent, our stories are similar. I believe that the eloquent words of Michelle Obama put it best when she described the achievements of Oprah Winfrey:

“There is more that unites us than divides us – that our shared experiences in work, life and love, in family and community, in our hopes and dreams know no barriers; that regardless of race, gender or socio-economic status or hometown, we are our brothers’ keepers, our sisters’ keepers.”

Now more than ever, I see myself as a citizen of this amazing planet and seem to have abandoned my preoccupations with identity.

Time continues to be my enemy at the moment as I wrestle to hang on to my time here. I am in my last month as a resident of Maasailand… as a teacher at Ilkurot Primary. That nasty lump reappears in my throat even as I write these words. I know now that my work here is not yet over and that my life now will involve some delicate balance between Canada and East Africa.

Global citizenI have decided to combine forces with my dear friend Lisa to form a Non-Governmental Agency (NGO). We share a passion for education; improving the system here, educating those who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, building bridges of sharing between Tanzania and the communities that we have called home. During the planning stages of a long term project such as this, it’s essential to focus on what it is that you hope to achieve.

One can easily become overwhelmed by trying to help everyone in need here. Our goal, and the intention of any good grassroots NGO, is to start small – do a few things really well instead of doing many things poorly. It will be a lot of work but when the work is driven by passion, it becomes less and less like work and more and more your reason to get up in the morning. I embrace the new challenge with open arms!

Written by Shannon Howlett, French teacher and DP coordinator at the International School of Moshi in Arusha, Tanzania.

Notting Hill Carnival 2014 – Sound systems, sequins and solidarity!

It’s that time of year again when Londoners and visitors alike fill the streets of W11 for the annual Notting Hill Carnival – Europe’s largest street festival, which originated in 1964 as a way for Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their own cultures and traditions.

Taking place every August Bank Holiday weekend come rain or shine, the Notting Hill Carnival is an amazing array of sounds, colourful sights and social solidarity. I couldn’t resist a trip to the Notting Hill Carnival 2014 to soak up the sights and sounds.

Nneka at Notting Hill Carnival 2014At the roots of the Notting Hill Carnival are the Caribbean carnivals of the early 19th century – a particularly strong tradition in Trinidad – which were all about celebrating the abolition of slavery and the slave trade. The very first carnival was an attempt to showcase the steel band musicians who played in London’s Earls Court every weekend. When the bands paraded through the streets of Notting Hill, they drew black residents out on to the streets, reminding them of the Caribbean homes they had left behind.

Today, as well as drawing the Caribbean community together to party in style, revellers from around the world rub shoulders to celebrate London’s remarkable diversity, culture, and mix of nationalities.

Notting Hill Carnival 1970s

At Sunday’s family day, I spotted people waving flags from all corners of the globe and enjoyed a heady mix of calypso, electronica, dub, reggae, salsa, soul and afro-beat blasting from the sound systems on every corner – a truly international journey in sound!

Notting Hill Carnival 2014

In 2016 the Notting Hill Carnival will celebrate its 50th anniversary – will you be there? Share the spirit of carnival with your class, with these teaching resources:

Early years teaching resources

Benjamin Zephaniah poem ‘The Men from Jamaica’ and related resources

Notting Hill Carnival web quest

Written by Nneka Chukwurah, former Teacherhorizons blog editor. Now she works at vInspired - a digital platform that enables young people to take action on causes they care about.

When students become co-creators in the classroom

It can be easy to forget that teaching and learning form part of an ongoing conversation, and not a monologue directed at students!

Whether we know our subject so well we forget to pause for feedback, or we’re so scared we won’t know the answer to a rogue question that we just ‘plough through’ and hope for the best – we can all make room to involve students more with these handy tips that have served me well so far.

1. Make students your co-teachers. Gather information on their interests, hobbies, motivations for learning and their preferred learning styles. The more they feel listened to, the more they feel that their contribution is important, and the more involved they’ll get in the lessons.

2. Foster co-operation and community rather than mere competition in the classroom. Create an atmosphere conducive to student collaboration and trust. Learning is not a solitary pursuit – it’s far more effective for students to help each other and develop trust among their peers compared to learning alone or blindly competing.

Collaboration in the classroom

3. Plan your lessons – but be flexible and responsive to students’ needs and ideas. If your lesson is not appropriate or is falling flat, ditch it, and try adopting your students’ ideas instead! This will give them greater ownership of the lesson and encourage them to get more actively involved.

4. Share with and learn from other teachers. They’re likely to be full of tried and tested resources and ideas. Observe them too, especially teachers with different teaching styles to yours.

5. Experiment with new ideas, techniques, layouts, and resources. They won’t all work, but some of them will and they’ll inject new life into your teaching techniques and into your classroom too.

6. Surprise and challenge your students. Make them learn a poem to recite, hold a classroom quiz, or put on a play of a text you’ve been studying. They might complain, but they’ll inevitably rise to the challenge and make a success of it!

Try something new

7. Teach the students, not the book. Remember that the course book is there to serve as a guide. Enrich, supplement and humanize what’s already mapped out whenever possible with anecdotes, videos, relevant authentic texts and your students’ own experiences.

8. Get modern! Embrace new technologies to enhance your students’ learning. For example, use a video camera or dictaphone to record and work on accents; get your students to text each other a summary of the lesson, or tweet the most important part of the lesson in 140 characters.

The more you mix it up and vary your teaching approach, the richer the experience for you and your students!

Written by Alex Cheatle, an English-language teacher with the British Council in Paris. A keen linguist, she speaks Spanish, French and smatterings of Portuguese, Serbian and Nahuatl. She also has the rather irksome habit of completing other people's crosswords.

Why learning needn’t be lost in translation

With English being such a lingua franca, namely in academia and in the world of technology, more and more Brazilians are recognising the necessity of familiarising themselves with the language.

As a result, a large number of new English schools open in Brazil every year, and as they emerge, the need for qualified teachers and attractive methodologies – combined with affordable prices – become fundamental to a school’s success in the growing private education sector.

I currently teach English on a course aimed at students and staff of the faculty of UNIVATES, a private university in Lajeado, a small town in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Having taught for close to twelve years now has given me the opportunity to test several different methodologies, and a bank of practical knowledge of what is and isn’t effective when it comes to teaching English to Brazilians.

It goes without saying that there is no perfect method for teaching English, as it is dependent on the motivations and focus of each individual learner.

I chose to adopt the Audio-Lingual Method for my classes as I personally find it a really effective method for training students’ oral skills. First and foremost, I like to teach my lessons entirely in English, even though the course where I teach (which uses the Communicative Approach rather than the Audio-Lingual Method) gives no explicit instruction about not using the students’ native language during lessons.

So, when I step into a new class do I just launch into a lecture to show off how good my English is? Not at all!

Encourage, inspire, energize

A good teacher keeps in mind that their role is to teach and encourage students to speak English, and that to do so there are techniques – such as visual aids and gestures – that depend both on the teacher’s and the students’ engagement to work well. However, as a native Portuguese and proficient English speaker, I like to take every opportunity to stretch my Brazilian students’ vocabulary and grammar in English.

For example, there are many similar words in English and Portuguese that I purposefully use to explain words and phrases that sound completely different in English; such as answerhard and call off. Call off is a synonym for cancel, which sounds very similar to cancelar, its equivalent in Portuguese. So, instead of providing the translation for call off in the following sentence “We should call off the meeting.” Instead, I explain to my students that call off and cancel are synonyms.

I do the same with the words answer and hard. Although answer and respond are not exact synonyms, respond sounds very similar to its equivalent responder in Portuguese, and hard is a synonym for difficult (difícil in Portuguese). Even if the words and phrases in question are not exact synonyms, I prefer to draw on their similarities rather than translate. As my students’ English improves, I start to introduce more elaborate explanations.

Students hands up

The benefits of this technique are increasing your students’ vocabulary and thus comprehension through regularly introducing new words. As well as equipping students with a richer language-bank so that they can come up with their own way of expressing their ideas in English without resorting to their native language.

Written by Rodolfo Roger, an English teacher from Brazil, a Languages graduate and Translation postgraduate. He is currently working to develop a set of methodologies to implement the Audio-Lingual Method (based on the Communicative Approach) in English classes.

Unlocking the potential of girls through education

On 22nd July 2014, London hosted the very first Girl Summit focusing on how to enable girls and women living in some of the poorest countries in the world to live free from violence and discrimination and achieve their potential.

Speakers, including the UK prime minister David Cameron, girls education champion Malala Yousafzai and actress Freida Pinto, joined campaigners, policymakers and development professionals from around the world at the event in a school in South London. Access to education for all girls featured among the key drivers to bringing about sustainable change for future generations.

In situations of extreme poverty, girls are particularly at risk as they tend to inherit the poverty of their mothers. They are prone to abuse of all forms, and very often confined to the household. In cases like this, education needs to go beyond preparing children to achieve at school. It has to empower them by heightening their awareness of their rights and responsibilities, nurturing their abilities, and enhancing their self-confidence to be able to improve their own lives and contribute to their local community and society at large.

Empowering girls through human rights

I came across a great feature by the Guardian, in support of Girl Summit 2014, where girls from Colombia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Peru, Rwanda and the UK were asked to share insights into their daily lives and reveal their hopes for the world they want to see. Here are some of their aspirations:

“I want to study psychology so I can help people with their problems. In 10 years time I see myself as a professional who has finished her studies. I’ll be independent and able to help people. I see myself as a leader who will be able to take others with me. When I started as a youth leader I thought it would be a waste of time, but no, I realise that everyday I learn something new, how to find solutions.” (Ana Gabriela Caballero, 13, Peru)

“I used to live in rural areas, but it was not easy there so my father decided to bring us to Nairobi […] Nairobi is so nice – if you are educated in Nairobi you can get a good job. Since I came to this school it’s been fantastic. My favourite subjects are maths, chemistry and biology. I’d like to be a journalist. At school I’m in the journalists’ club. I really want to see myself talking on television! […] I can change my life by being well educated.” (Caro, 13, Kenya)

When girls are allowed to be girls, we all do better.

“I want to be a great person who can impact the world, not just somebody who stands by, but someone who makes a big difference. I want to travel to other countries. I want to learn several languages like Russian. I know some English, French, Italian. I like nature and heard about a course of study called marine biology. I would really like to go to the Mediterranean Sea.” (Valentina Sanchez, 13, Colombia)

Ana Gabriela, Caro and Valentina  beautifully illustrate the power of education as a framework for gaining fundamental skills, a gateway to new subjects and experiences, and ultimately a stepping stone to becoming an active citizen.

What sort of world do your students aspire to? How are you nurturing their ideas?

Written by Nneka Chukwurah, former Teacherhorizons blog editor. Now she works at vInspired - a digital platform that enables young people to take action on causes they care about.

10 language learning tips for travellers

3.3 billion people are expected to travel abroad this year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Motivations for spending time, resources, and energy travelling abroad range from: studying or taking a crash course, accepting a new job to discovering new cultures, savouring unique delicacies, seeing breathtaking sceneries, and meeting new people.

However, there are issues we all encounter as travellers in a foreign country. Aside from cultural differences, a language barrier can turn a fairytale trip into a nightmare.

For example, a study published by The Pennsylvania State University found that negative emotional and cognitive responses develop due to language barriers. Not having the means to communicate with local people and engage with everyday services can really limit the experience and enjoyment of a new country.

What Charlemagne said must be true – “To have another language is to possess a second soul.” Language gives meaning to our life pursuits. So how can you get the most out of your overseas stay?

To have another language is to possess a second soul. - Charlemagne

By ‘travelling smart’ and learning the essentials of a new language before you set off, you’ll gain a much richer experience.

Here are 10 language learning tips for your next journey…

1. Review your travel goals

What activities are you going to do in the country? What places will you visit? Is there a local dialect you need to be aware of? By determining your plan, you’ll be able to identify the kind of expressions you need to focus on and eventually master.

2. Study a little (or more) about the country’s culture

Language and culture are inseparable. There are words or pronunciations that may be offensive in a particular country. Being aware of these will help avoid any misunderstanding or conflict during your stay.

3. Watch local TV shows and movies, and listen to local radio

Listening to the context within which words are used, and how people pronounce them will improve your understanding and confidence to communicate.

4. Ask for help

You can find language tutors online. Translators and interpreters are everywhere. There are also native speakers who may be willing to help you. All you have to do is to ask!

5. Carry a pocket dictionary

Bring a pocket or mobile dictionary with you. Look up new words as you hear or see them written, especially when there is no help around.

Language learning

6. Take advantage of available language learning technologies

Computer-based language learning tools are not only for learners but for teachers as well. Many of these programmes feature interactive platforms, vocabulary lessons, quizzes, and other activities that make language learning easier. Click here for a selection of software reviews and comparisons.

7. Non-verbal communication is also a valuable clue

Observe how locals move their hands or how their faces react during a conversation. Try to imitate these gestures to give your communication a more authentic feel.

8. Accept that you are going to make mistakes

Many language learners get frustrated when they make mistakes or when people make fun of them. Learning a new language is not an easy task. Stay focused on getting better and equipping yourself with the learning essentials.

9. Embrace being a student all over again

Take notes, practice your lines, and learn one phrase a day. Having a solid routine and preparation are key to becoming more confident and well versed in the new language.

10. Grab every opportunity for conversation

All of your efforts to learn a new language will go to waste unless you put it into practice! Immerse yourself in the local community, connect with new people, and you’ll be well on your way to fulfilling your travel goals.

Bon voyage!

Written by Laurianne Sumerset, who evaluates language learning software to help others choose the right programme for them. She has worked and travelled abroad.

A new start – living in Thailand with a family

I am a first time mum (Fabien is three now) and some of the decisions that other parents have to make, such as where to send your child to school, have been made for me.

Being able to send your child to the Early Years provision at your international school is just one of the perks of the job – seeing them grow and make new friendships. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be able to drop my son off at his nursery and know that I am steps away if needed.

It’s these little anxieties that being an international teacher has removed. Talking to friends at home, I have not had the worry of where to send my son nor have I worried about expensive child care. I found a local Thai lady to collect him from school every afternoon. He understands more Thai than he speaks and they have a great relationship. I did worry about the language barrier but as we became more settled, we realised that we needed to immerse ourselves especially as my first post was in the suburbs of Bangkok.Fabien at school

We are on the move again! Not to a different country this time; I’ve secured a new post at a prestigious school in the heart of Bangkok which means that Fabien has a place too. He was 18 months when we made the move to Thailand, so I had plenty of time to check out the EY provision in my first school, and by the time he had started at two and a half, he was used to popping into see mummy at work. He took to preschool beautifully and went everyday from 8am to 2:30pm. The new school is slightly different – he will be one of ‘the little ones’ again – a term he uses for the class below him.

Once again, I feel like the luckiest mum. My new school, Bangkok Prep, allowed Fabien to spend some time there. It’s a bigger school than he has been used to but once again, he made mummy and daddy proud by joining in with the activities and generally being a lot braver than we could have hoped for. We will still have the journey to school together, where we can talk about the day ahead and I will still be able to get home in time to enjoy a family dinner and spend time with him before bedtime. All of these precious things were under pressure in the UK, making our decision to leave easier. I find so much joy in the small, precious moments we experience here and I am so grateful that international teaching has benefitted my little family, not just my career.

Our family

We both start in August, and he’s already looking forward to his new classroom and teacher and I’m looking forward to my new role and working alongside new colleagues and pupils. We will have to find another nanny to collect him from school but I’m definitely more relaxed about that. We have friends in the city, some of whom we know from home and others we made along the way, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with them too. There’s something exciting about a new start, isn’t there?

There’s a refreshing and exciting feel about working in an international school and I wonder how much it has contributed to our son’s self confidence. After all, we took a chance and left the UK – we are a little bit braver about new challenges and unknown futures; we’re happy to make new friends and seek out new places. I guess some of that confidence and sense of adventure has rubbed off on him!

Read Julia’s related post on moving abroad with a family.

Written by Julia Knight-Williams, a Curriculum, Planning and Pastoral Delivery KS Coordinator at a Preparatory School in Thailand. Follow Julia on twitter.

5 ways to celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day!

“Nelson Mandela’s achievements came at great personal cost to himself and his family. His sacrifice not only served the people of his own nation, South Africa, but made the world a better place for all people, everywhere… He showed the way. He changed the world.” – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Every year on 18 July — the day Nelson Mandela was born — the UN joins a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of time to helping others, as a way to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.

Nelson Mandela International Day
For 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity — as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.

International Nelson Mandela Day aims to inspire a ripple of good deeds throughout the world, and looks to encourage individuals, communities, governments and non-profit organisations to take one small step towards making a very large collective imprint for good.

With just under a week to go before the big day on 18 July, you can still get your students involved in simple activities that champion the values Mandela fought for and share his message for peace and humanity.

We can change the world
Below are 5 simple yet powerful things I’ve taken from the Nelson Mandela Foundation site that you and your students can do to commemorate Nelson Mandela International Day (and beyond) to inspire change:

  • Make a new friend. Get to know someone from a different cultural background. Only through mutual understanding can we rid our communities of intolerance and xenophobia.
  • Trade skills, talents and interests with others to help strengthen your community.
  • Go for a walk or trek, visiting places that are new to you or that you would like to explore in more depth.
  • Help out at the local animal shelter. Dogs without homes still need a walk and a bit of love.
  • Buy a few blankets, or grab the ones you no longer need from home and give them to someone in need.

Get involved – inspire and support your students to take action! Visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation site for more suggestions or to create your own action.

Written by Nneka Chukwurah, former Teacherhorizons blog editor. Now she works at vInspired - a digital platform that enables young people to take action on causes they care about.

Visiting international schools

Visiting potential partner schools and meeting with Heads face-to-face is a crucial element of how Teacherhorizons operates.

Planning these visits tends to go something along the lines of “…where should we go next? Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Cape Town, Hanoi, Sri Lanka, Madrid, Amsterdam?”

“Which of these would you like to take Alex, Alexis, Eldon?” (Teacherhorizons’ Recruitment Advisers)John Regan

“I think we can cover all of these locations…”

“Now John, where can you go? Iraq, Russia, Azerbaijan perhaps?”

John Regan is a former International School Head and CEO of Teacherhorizons.

Wait a minute, I think to myself – surely these are areas with current political problems? – would it not be dangerous to visit! I suppose I was the natural choice given that my last posting was in Cairo during the Revolution of 2011!

And so it was decided – John can handle it. But, just to even things out, we’ll also task him with visiting schools in Portugal, Germany and Romania!

All of these trips were wonderful – bar none. Let’s look at three of these. I visited Erbil (Iraq) and Baku (Azerbaijan) in December 2013. The Heads were welcoming and I was most impressed by their schools. Erbil was fascinating and there was no hint of tension. The school and the package were excellent, and the teachers’ accommodation most impressive. At the time of writing this, however, the situation in the region is somewhat worrying.

Baku at night

I was pleasantly surprised by Baku. I found a rapidly developing city by the Caspian Sea. In spite of political tensions in the west of the country, Baku was not affected at all. I also visited Moscow in May 2014 amid the political upheaval in Ukraine. For the third time, my children pleaded with me not to go ahead with the visit because of the perceived danger. Yet again, there was no problem. Yet again, I met some great Heads and visited some excellent schools.

What did I learn from these visits?

  • Don’t believe all that you see and read in the media. Yes, it is prudent to be careful, but no more so than in every big city in the world
  • Sometimes the locations you are quick to dismiss can really surprise you. Open your mind up to all kinds of opportunities or risk missing out!
  • Less conventional location choices have equally good schools, with great packages and plenty of scope for professional development
  • These ‘less obviously desirable’ locations can be a great ‘way in’ to an international career and a strategic stepping stone to getting to work in some of the best schools in the world.

The visits to schools in Portugal, Germany and Romania were equally interesting and valuable, but lacking the frisson of excitement and adventure in going to places with a perceived danger.

Having said that, there’s no denying I’ll be first in the queue for any proposed visit to the Cayman Islands!

Want to know more? Read related posts on Azerbaijan and Iraq. For the lowdown on different expat destinations, we love Expat Arrivals.

Written by John Regan, former International School Head and CEO of Teacherhorizons