When teaching is for the teacher a chore, then so too is learning for the student a chore, but when teaching becomes a pleasure, so too does learning. Unicaja English Camp Director Eric Horne told me this as we ate lunch in the camp dining hall overlooking the hills of the Serranía de Ronda, a sweltering hot region of Andalusia famed for its breathtaking geography and its history of sultans and bandits. Eric’s insight gets to the essence of his camp; its ability to have the kids to begin to see English not as just another school subject to be passed or failed, but as a genuine interest, even a lifelong passion.

If on the first day of classes the kids were distant and shy – with the younger ones crying from nerves and the teenagers feigning cool by chewing gum – by the end of it all there are no hidden feelings as they say goodbye to their teachers, monitors and friends. Older boys and girls might be sharing whispered goodbyes and numbers as the younger ones cry in each other’s shoulders. Behind all these tears are long days of activities and classes, late nights of fun and games, afternoons of idle mingling by the pool after siesta-ing through the hottest hours, mornings of singing and dancing; weeks of forming friendships.

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The famous Puente Nuevo, Ronda

But the catalysing agent is the role of the teachers and monitors in opening these kids up to each other and themselves. Each teacher uses their own qualities – their creativity, energy, intellect, humour, experience, talents – to connect with their students in a genuine way. Amongst our ranks were musicians, yoga masters, rappers, travellers, graduate students, dancers, and generally well-rounded people who any parent would want as a role model for their child.

And these teachers know how to make a happy camper. I saw macho boys dancing to poppy tunes, shy ones strumming new chords, young ones performing dance routines in front of two hundred and fifty peers. I read love letters written to water, imaginative back-stories about camp sculptures and statues, touching goodbye notes to classmates. I heard poems recited, rap lines flowing, and discussions on fighters like Muhammed Ali and Martin Luther King Jr. What I saw around me was amazing teaching, the kind of teaching that as a kid you wanted to receive and as an adult you want to give.

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Looking over the Serranía de Ronda

And when on the last day a student comes up to you for a goodbye hug, when holding back tears they thank you for just teaching – then you think that maybe you’re like those teachers around you, and if not you know at least that you have connected with these kids on their level in a world which too often speaks down to them, disciplines them, commands them, places them in its own categories and bends them to its own rules.

So if after camp they forget some vocabulary and grammar, if one day they decide to focus on other things rather than English, at least on this camp they’ve learnt to be themselves, at least here they’ve sung out in harmony these lyrics from a song which became our camp anthem: “I’m a kid like everyone else”.

The Essentials for Teaching English in Summer Camps in Spain:

  1. Spanish schools close their doors on the 23rd June, which means most summer schools open theirs for the first or last two weeks of July.
  2. Most language academies in Spain begin teaching from September onwards, which means consistent work throughout the summer is scarce. Teaching on summer camps can be a good way to get you through the summer months before securing full-time employment in an academy.
  3. Summer camp remuneration varies dramatically between camps. You can expect to be paid anywhere between 800 and 1,300 euros.
  4. Working on summer camps is intense. Expect to teach up to eight classes per day and work throughout the whole day. With this in mind, keep your siesta hours sacred.
  5. The experience gained, the money earned, and the good times had make it worth the early mornings and late nights. You will learn from excellent teachers, meet interesting people, and teach the funniest kids.

Thoughts?

Let me know what you think of the article – have you ever wanted to give it all up and teach abroad? What makes a good teacher for you? You can post your reply in the comments section below.