My Summer School Experience: Teaching at Headington Oxford

We speak to Emma, a returning teacher at our Headington Oxford Summer School, about her experience. We ask what it’s like to teach at Summer School, why she loves working at Headington Oxford, and her top tips for students joining us this summer!

What is your role at Summer Boarding Courses?

I am returning to Headington Oxford Summer School for my second summer as an EFL Teacher. My primary responsibility is to plan and deliver engaging, educational and exciting English lessons. We teach in a communicative way to international classes that have a maximum of 15 students aged between 13-16.

Unlike other summer schools, my responsibilities don’t end with the morning lessons. In the afternoons and evenings, I get the chance to spend time with the students and let off some steam doing activities with them! This involves many fun activities such as arts and crafts, sports and drama, as well as excursions to great destinations such as Bath and London.

Can you tell us a bit more about what you teach at summer school?

I teach the General English syllabus.

General English

Students study three hours of English language lessons, five days per week. Every lesson has a specific skill set; be it to learn grammar, writing, reading, listening, vocabulary or, of course, speaking.

In addition, the second lesson helps prepare students for the demands of the real world; including university and job interviews, with the ‘Time To Shine’ programme, which give students the chance to prepare and perform 5-6 minute group presentations about real-world issues.


Last Summer, students talked about a wide range of issues including; taking care of the environment, ending poverty, ending homophobia and taking care of homeless animals. They perform these presentations in front of the other summer school students and teachers each week.

One group from each class goes forward into a ‘grand final’, where the winning group is allowed to choose a charity to donate the prize money to. They also get to receive certain privileges e.g. getting to jump the queue for lunch in the canteen!

Intensive English Writing

Last year, I also taught an Intensive English Writing class twice a week as part of the English Plus syllabus. I loved this, and there’s nothing like seeing a piece of writing that a student has created with your help!

What do you think makes summer school a unique educational environment?

Quite simply, if you want to, you can learn more about the world and yourself in 2-5 weeks than other people can learn in a lifetime.

You will discover yourself and others

When you are thrown into an international summer school environment with 200 other students from 72 different countries, you have no choice but to find new ways of communicating and seeing people. You see your own culture through different eyes and you may find any myths you had about other cultures being debunked before your eyes.

You will discover your strengths and passions

Every day you are given opportunities to discover a new hobby or a talent you never thought you had, thanks to our abundant activity programme.

You will build upon your social and life skills

For some people, it may be the first time they have attended a summer camp, travelled abroad or even shared a room with another person. There’s no better education about respecting other people’s boundaries than a debate about what time to put the night light out so you can get some much needed sleep! Summer school helps you become the person you will be for the rest of your life.

Discover Headington Oxford

Find out what you can achieve this Summer!

What is your favourite thing about teaching on a summer course?

The People

The people, without a doubt. The comradery between the staff is unlike anything I have ever encountered in the 6 years I’ve been teaching at summer schools, both in the UK and abroad.

The training and community

The staff arrive a week before the students to set up the school and receive training and one thing I will always remember hearing during that first week was our director telling us, ‘There’s no such thing as ‘That’s not my job!’.

In other summer schools, the teacher’s role is very isolated and the only interaction they have with the students is in the classroom in the morning. At SBC, we are all one big family. By taking part in the activities and doing House Duty, we get to bond with the students and each other much more.

It’s not abnormal to see a staff member who has a day off sacrifice that precious nap for another round of Capture the Flag!

A warm welcome

I also love the Welcome Club that we have set up at the airport: a room with beanbags, snacks, drinks and board games which gives the newly arrived students a chance to freshen up and get to know each other before they even arrive at school.

And of course, the bond that we form with the students makes all the late nights and early mornings worth it. Tears, group hugs and t-shirt signings on the last day are the signs of a summer put to its best use.

What advice would you give to students who are travelling abroad for the first time?

Make the most of it!

Summer school can be overwhelming, and it is certainly intense but if you let yourself, you can make friends for life and have experiences you will remember forever.

Be the best you can be

Forget what you do ‘back home’ and be respectful and gracious towards your new home for the next few weeks. Remember, you’re not only representing your country; you’re representing yourself.

Be open to emotions

Don’t try to shut out any emotion you might feel; even homesickness. There’s always someone on hand at SBC to help you talk it out and it’s all part of the experience.

Be flexible

Above all, let yourself be surprised.

Oh and…bring an additional suitcase!

It will save you the headache of excess baggage fares at the airport with all the souvenirs and Oxford hoodies you will buy!

What can students do to make the most of their experience at summer school?

Be open to surprises

whether it’s new food, new places or new people. Disregard any expectations you might have of what life in England or summer school ‘should’ be and just let yourself go on your own journey.

Support others

There’s always someone who is finding summer school that bit harder than you, so keep your eyes open for the chance to help others. Just giving a classmate a smile, or a hug, or providing a listening ear can be of more help than you know. Your new friends will certainly change your life and make your summer better, but you might just be able to do the same for someone else.

Discover Headington Oxford

Find out what you can achieve this Summer!